Sunday, December 03, 2006

After the Dust Settles...

I find myself awake before dawn thanks to my jackass neighbor and his loud music, so I'll use this time to bring up a few more thoughts on last night's game:

- A few people (who shall remain nameless) are giving the Caps grief for once again allowing the opposing team back in the game because Buffalo happened to score a few times. Forgive me for seeming overly sunshine-y about this win, but I don't fault the Caps for giving up some goals. I know, we were all excited when our guys jumped out to an early lead and were at one point up by 4 goals.

Thrilling, yes. Rare, absolutely. But people, come on - this is a Buffalo team that has scored more goals per game than any other team; they've scored 9 goals in a single game and have scored 7 goals 4 times, and we're only 25 games in. To think that Olie could pitch a shutout against such an offensively threatening team, even on his best night, is ridiculous. Give them a break - we should be happy that the Caps held the lead consistently. It may have expanded and shrunk at different intervals, but never were the Caps up by less than 2 goals, a feat in itself.

- I love how when the Caps beat a team, their fans automatically say things like "this game meant more to Washington than it did to Team XX"...why? If anything, I'd think that the Sabres were the ones with something to prove. When you're the best in the conference, you're supposed to beat those teams that are lower in the standings. The team sitting in 13th place is not expected to win games against teams like Buffalo - in fact, I'd be willing to guess that the Caps were hoping to just stay with the Sabres, particularly considering that they were still without some key players. And for a team that didn't care about the game, they sure did a good impression of a club trying to rally back from a 4 goal deficit...

- It's been really interesting to read the reactions to Ovechkin's hit on Briere from both sides, and I think it definitely merits further discussion.

FIrst of all, let me say this before I get attacked by Buffalo bloggers, because I know you're out there: Ovie's hit was definitely a hit from behind and was deserving of the five minute major that was issued. Hitting from behind can be so dangerous and there should automatically be a high penalty associated with it, no questions asked - players are responsible for being aware of their surroundings the same way they are responsible for keeping control of their stick. Accident or not, a hit from behind is a hit from behind.

Having said that, I don't believe that Ovechkin deserved to be ejected for the hit, nor do I believe that he should be suspended by the league. When you look at the hit, and I've done so many times since it happened, you can clearly see that Ovechkin is already in motion when Briere has the puck. Briere dumps the puck and turns to leave the ice when Ovechkin hits him, catching him with his back turned. It wasn't even a late hit, as the puck is away from Briere for only 2, maybe 3 seconds before Ovechkin arrived. What scared people and what probably led to Ovie getting ejected was more the aftermath of the hit. It was definitely a scary moment for all of us, seeing Briere go headfirst into the door before crumpling to the ice, and he's very lucky that he did hit the door because it opened absorbing some of the shock.

But let's put this into context - while it was a hit from behind, it was also a 6'2", 220-lb guy hitting someone who is 5'10", 179 pounds - that's probably a big reason that it looked worse than it was.

To all those people calling it a cheap shot, though, I'd like to know how you define that term. Because when I watch it, I see none of the signs usually present in your typical intent to injure, goonish, jackass cheap shot - Ovie didn't raise his elbows or grab Briere's jersey to propel him into the wall; in fact, his arms don't leave his side. He doesn't jump up to catch Briere up high; he doesn't crosscheck him into the boards; he doesn't take extra steps before running him. He actualy barely separates his feet, a clear sign that he was already gliding towards Briere and wasn't changing speeds. Nothing in his actions suggests to me that it was at all intentional or worthy of anything more than a major penalty.

(By the way, what was with the bizarre fighting major? Did anyone actually see him throw a punch? From where I was sitting, he just took a couple of jabs to the face...)

It's normal for Caps fans and Sabres fans to disagree about this - our natural instinct as fans is to protect and defend our teams vigorously, regardless of who is right and who is wrong. You can bet that Ovie will be expecting some kind of retribution, both from the fans and the Sabres, when he steps on the ice at HSBC Arena in a few weeks. But I think that Sabres fans should be aware that Ovie is not the type of player you want to make him out to be - he's not a goon, he'd never intentionally try to hurt someone, and he certainly wasn't smug about it. After he was ejected he looked somber, and if he smiled after the game it was his usual happiness at a Caps win, nothing more. To imply otherwise shows that you don't know anything about Ovechkin...looks like some people have been spending too much time in a division with Darcy Tucker and Chris Neil.

What I don't understand is when the difference of opinions goes beyond the realm of common decency - that's why I was so angry when I read this on the Buffalo message boards: "I hope he gets hurt in the All-Star Game [smiley]". Now that's pure class. And I should also point out that only one poster even commented on this statement, saying it "wasn't cool" (but only after calling Ovechkin something that I won't repeat here). Sabres fans, you should be irate that this person is representing your team - I know the majority of you are true hockey fans and would never wish injury on anyone. That's just so far over the line and so uncalled for - to represent yourself as a fan while actually hoping someone gets injured, even as a joke, gives hockey fans and hockey itself a bad name.

We'll wait to see what kind of penalty, if any, the league hands down. Buffalo fans want 5-10 games, which I think is so ridiculous I won't even go into it. If, and that's a big if, the league suspends Ovie I think it will be for 1 game max, maybe with a fine of some kind.

End of story, done, finito, time to move on...Sabres fans, I'll catch you all on the flip side, December 26th - Round 2.


FS said...

the problem you are encountering is that most of the fans arren't hockey fans, they are bandwagon fans. Where were all these people when the Sabres stunk?

CapsChick said...

Ah, those were the good old days. I don't even remember them being that obnoxious when the Caps faced them in the Eastern Conference finals. The team was more obnoxious than the fans at that point - who else remembers Hasek hurling his blocker at Bondra's head??