yankee hockey

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES C’MON!

Posted in Players, stats, Washington by yankhockey on March 26, 2009

We’re back! After a week off Yankee Hockey is rested, rejuvenated, renewed, and ready for action. And what kind of action? I’ve spent the entire week, a week leading up to the post season with lots of great story lines hearing only one repeated over and over and over again. That story is the fierce criticism, or defense, of Alexander Ovechkin’s celebration upon scoring his 50th goal.

For those of you fortunate enough to have escaped this story, here’s what happened: After scoring his 50th goal Ovechkin dropped his stick and mimed that it was too hot to pick up. It was something a teammate (Green or Semin I don’t remember) suggested to him. Since then the question on everyone’s minds is “How will my team do in the playoffs?” while the question being posed by media everywhere is “Was Ovechkin’s celebration over the top?”

Let’s end that debate right now, hell yes it was. Of course it was over the top, he used his stick as a prop to celebrate a goal which in the conservative world of hockey is very over the top. It’s over the top even in the liberal, me-first world of the NFL, enough that they charge a penalty for that kind of behavior. It’s also, however, totally innocent. The man scored 50 goals, he’s the first one in the league to do so (maybe only?) and he’s done it three times now which is an incredible feat. He’s the best player in the league. Proof? This is like the fourth or fifth article I’ve written about him already. Sidney Crosby maybe has two or three, along with Broduer and Luongo.

Ovechkin has never once in his entire career done anything out of selfishness. This is a guy who’d likely take a teammate’s stick and drop it like it was burning him if a teammate scored fifty. He loves the game, he loves to score, and his much maligned celebrations are simply a product of that. I wish every player in the league loved to play the game as much as Alex. Alex is the type of guy that, if he wasn’t good enough in the NHL, he’d spend his entire career in the ECHL making barely enough to live on and having to work fast food in the off season just so he could play the game.

The thing about hockey is that it has a long history of stone-faced stars. You can bet Maurice Richard didn’t even smile when he scored his 50th goal… of course the fact that hockey players have no teeth may be one of the reasons. A lot of the old school guys, and by old school guys I mean specifically Don Cherry, think that celebrating goals is childish and  selfish. They are dead wrong. Celbrating goals means that you are proud of what you have accomplished, excited to have done it for you team and fans, and enjoying your the time you are spending on the ice which is exactly how grown men being payed to play games should act.

Having said all that there is a time and a place. No one needs to celebrate a goal when they are done by three+ goals. No one needs to celebrate a goal when they are up three+ goals. Those kinds of actions certainly scream a “me first” sort of attitude. Ovechkin’s goal was neither of these things. That doesn’t mean it’s totally innocent, however. If I was the Tampa Bay Lightening watching Ovechkin drop it like it’s hot I’d certainly want to pop him one. Oh hey! Guess what? That’s perfectly within the rules of the game. Wanna know why they didn’t? Cause he would kick their collective asses. You see, he’s not just a goal scorer, no sir. He’s a big guy who plays a complete game, and that includes dropping someone to the ice if need be.

If goal celebrations like that become an epidemic then the league will certainly do something about it. The league might support players being excited that they scored, but they are uninterested in showy theatrics like that. They allow Ovechkin to do it because he is the most charismatic man ever to play the game, but if he does it again or other players take his lead expect penalties to be called.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get a chance to hear his response to the criticism, it’s timeless Alex Ovechkin:

“It’s a big number, I think for everybody. If I get it, why [can’t I] celebrate? If you win the lottery — a million dollars — you go to the bar and drink a lot. I scored 50 goals, I just celebrated.”

yes you did Alex, yes you did. And your stellar play, charming personality, and endless wit make you just about everyone’s (Crosby and Cherry excluded) favourite player.

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SHORT HANDED MAGIC

Posted in Philadelphia, Players, stats by yankhockey on February 22, 2009

In case you haven’t heard, you don’t want to go on the power-play against the Flyers. They lead the league in short handed goals… by a ton. And they are, in turn, lead by their captain Mike Richards who just happens to have tied a team record over the weekend by potting his seventh short handed goal this season against the Penguins. Oh yes, it was also his third game in a row with a short handed goal, and one of those three came while the Flyers were two men short which was the league record third time in his career he’d accomplished that. Oh yes, this is only his fourth full season with the Flyers.

How bug of a deal is seven? Well, the record is thirteen, set by Mario Lemiuex, and he’s unlikely to reach that. But at the rate he’s going ten certainly isn’t out of the question, eleven is probably in reach too. Only four players have ever scored more then nine; Lemiuex twice, Gretzky twice, Marcel Dionne and some guy named Dirk Graham who unfortunately scored his ten the same year Lemiuex scored thirteen thereby ruining a perfectly good opportunity to lead the league.

Scoring short handed is supposed to be a difficult thing to do, but the Flyers have been doing it like they’re on the power-play. Richards himself has nine short handed points, Simon Gagne has four goals and four assists, Jeff Carter has four goals of his own, even under achieving Glen Metropolit (who I continue to expect to pull out and awesome season and am continually disappointed by) has managed a short handed assist of his own. In total the Flyers have scored 16 short handed goals, which is ridiculous. Most teams, if they’re good at the penalty kill, and a little lucky, will pot eight or nine in a season total, the Flyers are looking at more then that from just one player.

I saw Richards’ seventh goal. It came off one of the laziest passes I’ve ever seen. I can understand that a team can get a little over confident on the power play, but when you know you are playing the best short handed scoring team in the league you have to know that you must be responsible. But then, being lazy and irresponsible, especially on the defensive end, has been the biggest criticism against the Penguins this year. In any case, it was a slow pass across the blueline that Richards picked up so naturally it almost seemed like it was meant for him. He was off then, all alone against Marc-Andre Fleury and with a slight nudge of his stick blade he sneaked the puck five hole. In the end it didn’t matter much, the Penguis won the game thanks to the Flyers’ goalie woes, but it was still embarrassing.

In fact, there’s nothing so embarassing in hockey then to let in a short handed goal. Unless you’re the team getting the short handed goal, then you can start teasing the opposing goaltender by chanting his name over and over and over again. The Flyers are a little unique this year in that scoring short handed goals seems to be part of their strategy. Most teams will take one when they can get one, but discourage most attempts because if you mess up the opposing team has even more advantage the other way. Something Philly is doing is right though, even with throwing caution to the wind they are still tied for seventh in the league in the penalty kill. I wonder how much of that is due to other teams being intimidated and trying to play it extra safe while on the power play? If the Flyers go far into the playoffs, I imagine that more teams will be trying to imitate that style in the future. They better hope they got a player like Mike Richards on their team if they do, though, because he may be the most powerful PK offensive machine tis league has seen in a very very long time.