Dismiss Alex Ovechkin at your own peril

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alexoatcamp.jpgRather than looking at his outstanding stats in the playoffs (10 points in 7 games against Montreal; 40 in 28 in his career overall), many people take the same, lazy formula for judging Alex Ovechkin: “Ovechkin plays in the game + Capitals lose = Ovechkin let his team down.”

Hockey is a team sport, through and through. Unlike a sport like basketball where one player can have an enormous impact on a game, blaming one man (or giving one player too much credit) can be a fool’s errand. After all, aside from an all-world defenseman who might log 30 minutes during some games, most skaters aren’t even on the ice for half of the game. Perhaps the “he hasn’t won anything” argument can be used to illustrate why he might not unanimously be the best player in the NHL, but it’s ridiculous to think that hockey’s greatest star lost his shine.

That’s the question Mike Zeisberger poses in this piece, though he doesn’t necessarily agree with that stance. Here is an excerpt from that column.

For some of us, he is still the most electrifying, riveting talent in the game, the one player that is worth the price of the NHL’s at-times inflated admission.

At the same time, it is evident that the bloom, in the eyes of some, has come off the rose.

Maybe it’s because they remember how Ovechkin’s so-called powerful Olympic team was humiliated 7-3 by Team Canada at the Vancouver Winter Games.

Maybe it’s because the image of Ovechkin’s controversial hit on Chicago’s Brian Campbell remains etched in their minds, an incident that landed the Caps’ sniper a two-game suspension.

Maybe it’s because the critics claim he hasn’t, at least from a team standpoint, won anything, pointing to the Caps’ first-round exit to the underdog Montreal Canadiens this past spring as a prime example.

Weighing all the factors, is it really fair to put all these things on the shoulders of Ovechkin, whose team has won just one playoff series during his time in Washington?

It’s far too early to give up on Ovechkin and the Caps. Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green are just entering their prime years right now. The team’s two young goalies could provide a cheap, competent alternative to an expensive veteran. Maybe they don’t have a shutdown defenseman, but considering their youth and talent, it’s not impossible to imagine things working out for Washington.

Anyone who’s soured on Ovechkin needs to remember that a huge chunk of the greatest players in sports needed to get knocked down before they reached their greatest heights.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

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

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.