Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is assisted off the ice after a knee-on-knee hit with Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason Monday. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Bruce Ciskie, nhl.fanhouse, Nov. 30, 2009:
Alex Ovechkin has a multi-faceted reputation in the NHL. Not only is he one of the league's best offensive players, but he is a ferocious hitter who takes no prisoners on the ice. His mentality -- treat every shift as if it's your last -- can be a double-edged sword, as Ovechkin has shown recently.
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At 01:40 of this video Bruce Boudreau compares Ovi's hit on Gonchar, Laraque's knee-on-knee hit on Kronwall and tonight's hit on Gleason.
"Anytime Alex is hurt, I'm concerned. He's stiff right now. But I don't know how long he's going to be out, if he's out at all. With these things, the next morning you find out a lot more.
It looked like he learned with his shoulder to me. Gleason put a good move to the inside and his leg followed through with him.
Obviously Carolina Coach Paul Maurice doesn't see a malicious intent when he says, "I don't know how you want to define the play, but it's dangerous for both players."
By Ken Campbell, The Hockey News, Nov. 30, 2009 "Ovechkin won't avoid suspension this time":
In what could be described as an eventful night in the NHL, for the wrong reasons, Ovechkin went knee-on-knee with Tim Gleason of the Carolina Hurricanes and received a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct. Although the NHL rulebook does not specifically stipulate a fine or suspension for kneeing, supplementary discipline can be applied at the discretion of the commissioner.
And you’d have to think that’s exactly what will happen, given that Georges Laraque of the Montreal Canadiens recently received a five-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit that injured Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. One big difference was that Gleason came back to play the rest of the game (Kronwall’s out for at least a month), while Ovechkin looked to take the worse of the hit, leaving the game and not returning.
Ovechkin also received a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding last week when he drilled Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres head-first into the boards. Ovechkin did not receive supplementary discipline for that hit, but likely won’t be that lucky this time around.
Although NHL vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell would not say whether Ovechkin will face a hearing, he did say that Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard will not be suspended for hitting his own goalie, Tomas Vokoun, with a two-handed baseball swing in the Panthers 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
And here's an excellent article by Scott Burnside, ESPN.com, Nov. 30, 2009 "Has Ovechkin finally gone too far?":
Regardless of how badly Alex Ovechkin is hurt -- and his knee-on-knee collision with Carolina's Tim Gleason on Monday night looked plenty grisly -- one wonders if this moment doesn't suggest a player at a crossroads.
Part of Ovechkin's charm, his raison d'etre, if you will, has been willingness to go through people as opposed to around them.
We recall being in Washington on a night when he scored four goals against Montreal and suffered a broken nose. It was a masterful performance made all the more impressive by the fact Ovechkin seemed as proud of the broken nose as the four markers.
He is the rarest of blends, a marriage of world-class talent and world-class chutzpah that has made him the game's most dynamic player, a two-time MVP and goal-scoring machine.
But has Ovechkin finally gone too far? And, if he has, how does he come back?
On Monday night, Ovechkin came at Gleason like a freight train. Gleason moved and Ovechkin turned ever so slightly with his knee jutting out slightly, sending both players sprawling on impact.
Although it was Ovechkin who took the brunt of the blow (he remaining curled on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the dressing room and unable to put any pressure on his right leg), on-ice officials assessed the Caps' star a major and game misconduct for kneeing.
No update was expected on Ovechkin's status until some time Tuesday. At the same time, expect the NHL to come down with some severity on Ovechkin, who continues to build a troubling case file of reckless or dangerous play.
Just last week, Ovechkin was given a boarding major and game misconduct when he took Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta into the boards with a blind-side hit. There was no suspension or fine. Last spring in the second round of the playoffs, Ovechkin took out fellow Russian and Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar with a similar knee-on-knee hit that also resulted from an aggressive forecheck. Gonchar was lost for several games and Ovechkin seemed genuinely remorseful, although he was not sanctioned by the league with a fine or suspension.
There have been other brushes with the NHL's law, as he was fined $2,500 for slew-footing Atlanta's Rich Peverley earlier this season. Last January, there were calls for a suspension after Ovechkin rammed former teammate Jamie Heward of Tampa head-first into the boards (Heward was taken off the ice on a stretcher and suffered a concussion).
Earlier this month, we saw the NHL's head disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, hand Georges Laraque a five-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit that sent Detroit's fine blueliner Niklas Kronwall to the sidelines for up to two months. Now, in a harsh bit of irony, it is Ovechkin who looks like he may be sidelined for the foreseeable future as a result of his own recklessness. Regardless, there will be intense pressure on Campbell to levy some sort of supplementary discipline on one of the game's biggest stars.
Ovechkin's injury status should have no bearing on how Campbell handles this situation. The body of evidence suggests Ovechkin not only plays on the edge, but over it. It is time to pay the piper, even if he ends up serving his time with an ice bag on his right knee.
Beyond that, though, what toll will Ovechkin's style of play take long-term?
In January 2008, Ovechkin signed a 13-year contract extension. He is the catalyst to what has been a remarkable resurgence for the Capitals' franchise. He is one of the game's most recognizable faces, one of the few European stars who has the kind of personality that may make him a cross-sport star in North America. Yet, how can he expect to fulfill anywhere near the full extent of that contract if his style of play causes him to break down ahead of his time?
Although he has been remarkably durable in his young NHL career, missing just four games in his first four seasons, he has already missed six games this season with an upper-body strain. Now, he faces another potential stint on the shelf before the season is half over.
We have seen what happens to talented, physical players when they start to break down or try to change their styles in an effort to squeeze more life out of their bodies. Eric Lindros was a shadow of his former self in the final years of his NHL career, a perimeter player with little impact, moments that may end up costing him a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Since the Steve Moore incident, Todd Bertuzzi has never been the same type of player he was before it.
Is it possible for Ovechkin to remain true to his nature and yet alter his style to avoid these kinds of incidents? Or is this simply the way it is for the great Russian star, a kind of live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword mantra to which Ovechkin will adhere no matter the cost?
Soon, we will begin to see answers to these questions.