After Fehr tied it up in Chicago Sunday, Joel Quenneville finally called his timeout. Prior to the next faceoff, The Imperial March from Star Wars played in the United Center. I thought that summed it up pretty well. Ovechkin had injured Brian Campbell, the Capitals had come back from three down without their MVP, and Chicago seemed destined to lose their second heart breaker in under 24 hours. Playing in their road whites with dark blue trim, the Capitals did resemble the brutally efficient army of the original Star Wars movies. In the intermission after Campbell was injured, Pierre McGuire actually marveled at Ovechkin’s strength, an adroit way to avoid taking a stance as to whether or not the hit was dirty. But he did have a point – Ovechkin did seem to let up on Campbell as he went into the boards and his body came off Ovechkin’s push like he was being sucked out of an airplane.
After Ovechkin’s first Hart winning season in 2007-08, he actually finished ninth in Lady Byng voting. He finished with a career low 40 penalty minutes and zero incidents. Last season Ovechkin ended Jamie Heward’s career with an unfortunate hit from behind, which he followed with a knee on knee hit on Sergei Gonchar in the playoffs. When I watch these hits, along with this interference call on Dustin Brown earlier in the season, it just looks like Ovechkin is incapable of a love tap. Even when he eases up, he hits violently. Ovechkin doesn’t even look interested in hitting Heward and he gets crushed along the boards, and he just goes through Gonchar and spins him like a top.
This year Ovechkin has been suspended twice and fined for two other incidents. His boarding on Patrick Kaleta came with a mandatory game misconduct because of the injury. It’s an even more borderline call than the Campbell boarding since Kaleta gets rid of the puck an instant before impact, but it’s noteworthy because it essentially put Ovechkin on probation for half the year. He was also fined for a slew foot on Rich Peverley, a categorically dirty play but it’s Ovechkin’s strength that pulls Peverley back and causes the slew foot. The hit on Tim Gleason is a misjudgment on Ovechkin’s part as Gleason turns away and Ovechkin has committed to contact too early. He injured himself (as well as Gleason) on this play and was suspended for two games (which he likely would have missed anyway due to injury). Which brings us to Sunday’s boarding call.
So is Ovechkin a dirty player? He now has committed enough dirty plays that it’s tough to argue: two knee-on-knees and one slew foot in under a calender year. He’s certainly not the dirtiest player in the NHL, nor the top five, but at some point you have to get to Ovechkin’s name. Brute strength can explain away some of these incidents but not all.
Miscellaneous: I used this Complex.com post for the Youtube links as well as a refresher on Ovechkin’s history.
About the Author
Written by Ryan Cleaver
Ryan Cleaver was born in Björk’s house in Iceland and grew up on Easter Island, where his parents were giant stone heads. He has the ability to fire beams of tacos out of his hands and he can turn his legs into tigers. On Sundays, Ryan enjoys reading Family Circus and traveling through time. His favorite color is greenish-transparent and his favorite movie is the one you just watched.