This is more close to truth, Marc Staal, not Sean Avery, will be in Ovechkin's face every night, and Marc is pretty good.
Oh, wait, should we change the title to Staal vs. Semin? :-)
Rangers Report, Apr. 13, 2009:
Had a chance to speak with Marc Staal about his many encounters with Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s most dangerous and unique player, the last two years. Predictably, Stall said it will be up to all six men on the ice to try to contain Ovechkin, who is like a Brandon Jacobs (to use a football analogy) in that he’d just as soon hunt down the defensive player and run him over, as go around him.
“He’s a competitor, he hits hard and yeah, we’ve had our run-ins in the past,” Staal said.
Here are some of his other remarks:
“I think it can work both ways, Sometimes if you hit or you get hit, it gets you into the game more. I think, maybe getting it in the back of his mind that he’s going to get hit every time he shoots it or he’s coming down the wing, I think it would be good for us.”
“As well-balanced as they are offensively … to be fixated on one guy on the ice could kind of cause you trouble. If you’re overplaying him, you could leave some gaps and leave some guys on the ice open. We can’t do that.”
“Last year, we had some pretty good battles. I don’t know what it is. I think we’re always in the same areas of the ice so when the puck comes, he hits hard and I don’t want to get knocked down either. It’s kind of been an ongoing thing, but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s a pretty good challenge.”
“Not really. I think the amount he shoots and where he can shoot it from, and how hard — he does it from anywhere — is unique to anybody I’ve played against. Just how hard he shoots it and how quick he can get it off, before you even react, or before you even think he’s going to shoot, is something that’s pretty unique.”
“You’ve just got to be conscious of where he is. The closer you are, where you can at least be a stick-length away, where you can at least get a stick on his or not give him any time to get that shot off, is a pretty big thing.”
“Off the rush, if you’ve got a better gap … he comes across the blue line, he likes to cut in and rip one and sometimes he doesn’t usually care where it’s going. He shoots it as hard as he can, either through you or around you, so a tight gap in the neutral zone and obviously being aware of where he is in the D-zone.”
“It’s a challenge. It will be a lot of fun. He’s one of the best in the world, so it’ll be pretty interesting to see how things shake out.”
Here is some Tortorella on Staal taking the challenge:
“I dont think it’s just going to be Staal, and I don’t think it’s just going to be Ovechkin. They’ve got a lot of good players, up front and on the back end. Marc Staal and Danny Girardi have done a really good job for us the last couple of months as far as taking some of those minutes against the top lines. But which one is the top line in Washington? That guy Semin’s a helluva player and they’ve got some people. So it’s not just going to be Marc. It’s going to be a team effort here in trying to control them offensively.”
“I haven’t been here (for previous Staal-Ovechkin battles). I’ve read about it. And I think both Marc and Danny have accepted the challenges here as of late against some good offensive people. They’re two good players and they’re kids. I just think in this league, defensemen are at a premium, and I think we’ve got two pretty good ones there who not only can defend well but I think eventually are going to bring some offense to this team.”
Finally, and you’ll like this: Tortorella isn’t about to switch to a more conservative approach just because of all of Washington’s weapons, especially Ovechkin.
“No, we’re going to play,” he said. “You have to be aware he’s there. He’s a great player. We know that. But I don’t think you can let it dictate your game. I’m a believer in that we need to play our game and not get into any counter-punching, and take our chances that way. Having said that, of course you have to know when he’s on the ice, when Semin’s on the ice, and some of the other people — this kid Backstrom. You have to defend, but don’t lose your identity as a hockey club, and that’s very important as we start this series.”
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