Poll: Who's more annoying, Ilya Kovalchuk or Lebron James?

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Chances are that if you’re even vaguely interested in professional sports, you’ve probably heard that Lebron James is going to make his long-awaited free agent decision tonight on live TV. If you frequent this site, you’re probably also a little beaten down by the on-again, off-again saga that is Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations.

As followers of athletic events, it’s crucial that we separate some of the egomania and greed from the games. Otherwise we’d likely feel sour whether our favorite team was dousing each other with victory champagne or sulking their way to the worst record in their given league.

Still, there’s no doubt that Lebron-Kovalchuk talk has stretched itself from charming to exhausting. With all the negativity toward the two parties on Twitter and Internet forums around the world, I couldn’t help but wonder which one annoys hockey fans the most? Before I drop the poll on you, a few points for and against each one being the champion of irritation.

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Why he’s annoying: Lebron James might be compared to Michael Jordan, but he’s had the red carpet rolled out for him since Day One. He owned a Hummer in high school, was given a huge contract from Nike before he played a single NBA game and has been crowned the “King” without winning a title.

Redeeming qualities: That being said, he’s seen something Kovalchuk hasn’t. That would be the second round of the playoffs (not to mention the third round and the NBA finals). He’s also known as someone who makes his teammates better, a qualification that is still in limbo for Kovalchuk. Let’s not forget, also, that the NBA salary cap is a lot more conducive to the kind of deal Lebron wants as opposed to Kovy. He’s also a charming fellow.

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Why he’s annoying: He passed up the kind of lifetime, ridiculous deal he’s hoping for with the team that drafted him in Atlanta. Whether it’s the fault of his teammates or not, he’s 1-8 in his playoff career. Even in the Olympics, Kovalchuk has had very little “big game” success. It’s not like he was starving with his previous $7.5 million per year contract.

Redeeming qualities: Despite those flaws, he’s one of the most consistent scorers in the league even though he only benefited from playing a few years with capable teammates such as Marian Hossa, Marc Savard and Dany Heatley. Only Alex Ovechkin scored more goals since the lockout. Kovalchuk might have spurned the Thrashers, but he also suffered quite some time with that team. Unlike Lebron, Kovalchuk had to fight through the culture shock of going from Russia to Atlanta. By all accounts, he seems like a good person to boot.

So with that out of the way, which athlete leaves you more annoyed: Lebron or Kovalchuk? Vote in the poll below.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.