Ovechkin could learn from 'Rocky IV'


When I heard about the Washington Capitals’ most recent headaches revolving around steroid investigations at the team’s training facility, I didn’t immediately assume that some of their players were up to no good. Instead, I couldn’t help but whimsically compare Alex Ovechkin to Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV.”* This was the first image that popped into my head.

Now, there’s no reason to believe Ovechkin (or any Caps player) is guilty of foul play. Let me say that again: I am not accusing anyone of using steroids. That’s actually not what I’m interested in discussing.

Really, this is the main idea: Alex Ovechkin should embrace his inner Drago and accept this opportunity to morph into an ultra-menacing hockey villain. It’s the role many are trying to place him in anyway, so why fight to maintain a squeaky-clean image (like Tiger Woods) when he could instead shrug his shoulders and say “this is who I am, deal with it” (and be forgiven perpetually like lovable lugs like Charles Barkley and Robert Downey Jr.)? 

Just follow Drago’s lead. 

Since I’m such a helpful guy (and also because I have too much time on my hands), I’ll go one step further and cast NHL personalities as Rocky IV characters. Heck, I’ll even do an American and Canadian version. Thank me later.

Check out the cast after the jump

ovechkintaunt.jpgDrago – Ovechkin: Gigantic, physically intimidating Russian who attracts gorgeous blondes. Sometimes hurts opponents with his hard hits; critics think he’s dirty but fans just think he’s doing his job.

Blonde wife/spokesperson – One of Ovechkin’s many Russian beauties: Think of how much easier things would be for Ovechkin if he had someone completing those pesky interviews for him like Drago did.

Apollo Creed: Brian Campbell (USA) or Sergei Gonchar (CAN): Best friend/teammate of hero falls victim to devastating injury (or death). Bonus points if Ovechkin says this about Campbell: “If he breaks his clavicle, he breaks his clavicle.”

Rocky: Sidney Crosby (CAN) or Patrick Kane (USA): The hero must avenge his fallen comrade in a high stakes bout. It would be even better if one of them went through crazy winter tree lugging training and/or managed to grow a robust beard.

Shady Russian manager: Bruce Boudreau: “Drago shouldn’t be penalized for being too strong!”

Robot butler: OK, I’m pretty sure the robot butler was in Rocky “III” but I demand one anyway. You got that? Give me a robot butler or I walk!

Anyway, that’s how I see that imaginary scenario playing out. Is there a better movie comparison than “Rocky IV”? Tell me about it in the comments.

* – The film was a seminal part of my childhood, but I must acknowledge that ESPN’s Bill Simmons is the movie’s most prominent Internet evangelist.

(Hopefully you understand that this is a joke.)

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks
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We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.