Alex Ovechkin: Fighting to keep up with Sidney Crosby

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Ovi1.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 14, 2010
Live on NBC

It seems that it is rare to find a hockey fan that likes both Sidney
Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. It’s Team Sid vs. Team Ovi and the battle can
get a bit bloody at times, as fans spew forth hate and discontent
towards the other camp.

It’s all part of the natural rivalry that has developed between the
two, as they jockey for position in the race to the be the NHL’s best
player and it’s still debatable who is in the lead. Is it Ovechkin, he
of multiple scoring titles and highlight-reel goals, who leads the most
exciting team in the NHL in front of the best home crowd the league has
to offer? Or is it Crosby, who has now won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic 
gold medal and who currently leads the NHL in scoring?

It always seemed that Ovechkin was in the lead in this race over the years, but he’s fallen behind. The world has embraced
Sid the Kid and now Ovechkin must catch up. With the Capitals facing a potential Stanley Cup finals opponent this afternoon we have to ask: is this year his best shot at doing so?

The 2010 Capitals are the best chance Ovechkin might have.

It’s been a slow build for the Capitals to get to where they are now,
and there’s no doubt they are they best they’ve been since Ovechkin
joined the team. But great teams like this don’t come along every year,
and they’ll need to take advantage of the shots they have. Last year the
Capitals had a great team, yet were stunned by the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the semifinals. I’m sure that did nothing but add more fuel to the
fire that rages inside Ovechkin, and watching Crosby hoist the cup a few
weeks later – if he even watched it – had to be painful.

I picture Ovechkin alone in a dark room, watching Game 7 in front of a
flickering television, vowing revenge on his nemesis while crushing something metallic between his hands.

“I vill destroy zat Crozzbee. I vill vin zee Stanley Cup!”

How much does the rivalry drive Ovechkin?

One thing you have to love about Ovechkin is his intense approach to
every game. Some people call it reckless, while I call it a will to win.
He never takes a game off and every shift you know he’s on the ice.
Sure, he may not be the most responsible player in his own end but he
certainly makes up for it on the scoreboard.

But how much does he think about Crosby each game? Does he watch the
scoreboard each night to see what the Penguins have done and does he
check to see how many goals Crosby scored? This is the first season that
he and Crosby have been in a race down the stretch for the league lead
in goals, and it has to frustrate the two-time “Rocket” Richard Trophy
winner. He’s been beat out for the Art Ross before by Crosby but the
Richard is his. Losing that race to Crosby in a “Year of Losing to
Crosby” would be the icing on the cake of frustration.

The good news: The Capitals aren’t just Alex Ovechkin

In the past, Alex Ovechkin has been all the Capitals had. Not so any
longer, as the team has been built around him and compliments his skill
and production in nearly every way. The Capitals aren’t a freakishly
offensive team based on Ovechkin’s goal-scoring alone; there are players
all over the roster that can put the puck in the net.

Ovechkin recently suffered through a near-catastrophic six-game
scoreless streak, yet somehow the Capitals found a way to win without
him. What’s ironic is that in the game he finally scored in – two goals –
the Capitals lost.

So perhaps the pressure is off Ovechkin a bit, so that
he can go out
and be himself on the ice knowing that the team around him is just as
capable as he is.

If Ovechkin has any hope of keeping up with Sidney
Crosby – and you
know he thinks about it – then winning the Stanley Cup this season is
all that matters. The scoring title might be a consolation prize, but
if Crosby hoists that Cup again this season the then Ovechkin would have
fallen a few horse-lengths behind in this quarter mile race.

Join us for a live chat of today’s game at 11:30 a.m.
EST, only on Pro Hockey Talk!

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

Vladislav Namestnikov
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Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.

Journeyman enforcer Rosehill signs with Scottish team

Paul Bissonnette, Jay Rosehill
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Noted pugilist Jay Rosehill has followed in the footsteps of his fellow tough guys, and will try his hand overseas.

Specifically, in the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the EIHL’s Scottish-based outfit in Braehead — the Clan — announced it had signed Rosehill for the upcoming campaign. The move comes after the 31-year-old spent each of the last two seasons with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.

Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.

Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:

As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.

 

 

Veteran d-man Foster retires, moves into coaching

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Kurtis Foster #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during their NHL game against the New York Islanders on December 13, 2005 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  The Wild defeated the Islanders 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.

Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.

The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.

The severity of the collision and Foster’s injury — he underwent emergency surgery, nearly bled out and almost lost his leg — prompted an immediate rule tweak from the NHL, and has since been viewed as a catalyst for the league’s adoption of no-touch icing.

Impressively, Foster recovered from the broken femur to post a career-high 42 points in 74 games with the Lightning in ’09-10.

In addition to the Wild and Bolts, Foster spent time with the Thrashers, Oilers, Ducks, Devils and Flyers.