A decade from now, when some hockey blogger is idling whimsically in summer and suggests that the online hockey world identify the 10 greatest goals scored in NHL history, there’s a real chance that Alexander Ovechkin has 12 of them.
“That’s insanity,” Pierre McGuire said of Ovi’s latest stunner on the TSN broadcast last night.
Most of the hockey world by now has seen it, but how do you describe it in say cell phone voicemail left for a loved one necessarily logged off and away from TV on say a flight at 40,000 feet? Because surely if you were a witness to it either in Verizon Center or on television last night around 8:00 you couldn’t wait til landing to scream (again) “I don’t believe what I just saw.”
And: “He did it again.”
I’ll try to describe. Our Hart and Heart stud blur-raced across the neutral zone with a poor puck-chasing Hab in his headlights. Said Hab (Roman Hamrlik) failed to catch up with the errant lead pass, and Ovi’s anticipation met the puck’s carom off the near boards. Acting purely on instinct, the GR8 back-handed a fresh carom to himself with just enough pace to elude Hamrlik but soft enough to retrieve it high in the Habs’ zone. In full churn he raced in with the puck on Carey Price, with only Kyle Chipchura left to beat. The kid did his best in such a mismatch, and near the slot was left with only an overt act of stick obstruction as defense. Tripped onto his fanny, sliding into the big goalie, the GR8 re-secured the loose puck and scooped-shot past Price’s pads. On his arse against a great young goalie it’s still a mismatch. Bedlam followed.
But the best part of the heroism, for me, took place back on the bench, during our savior’s recuperation. The camera of course followed him, he recognized his shining moment up on the center ice screens, and he cupped his hand to ear to hear a fresh red ovation.
The Pied Piper of Puck played the moment perfectly. Again. He isn’t just scoring like mad. He isn’t just leading his team. He’s creating a Red Fever for a town so badly in need of it.
I’m just giddy-glad not only to be living in his time but especially in his city. We gave him the key to the city last summer after he returned from Toronto with all that hardware. We need to begin thinking of gifts on a much grander scale.
Wednesday night was, as Bruce Boudreau warned, a trap game for the home team. The start of a prolonged homestand after an important and successful roadtrip. And for much of the night the Caps played as if trapped. Beleaguered, desperate Montreal played a terrific road game, forechecking the hosts into hurried and largely inaccurate passes, putting the body to Mike Green all night long, limiting the Caps’ scoring chances with superb positional play in their own end. For good measure, they took just three minor penalties on the evening.
They deserved two points, and a year ago, against largely the same Capitals’ squad, they would have gotten them. But there is something hinting at a special destiny beginning to settle in on this team. Now they win even when they aren’t supposed to.
And so on a night when 18,000 in Chinatown and thousands more watching on TV in the States and Canada should have been discussing merely Ovi’s latest act of outrageousness and shucks too bad the goal didn’t come in a winning effort, the hockey world also had to acknowledge that Ovi plays on a special team, and one that just might be going someplace special earlier than anyone had imagined.
During the first intermission I was standing in a gaggle of television and radio personalities and producers, all of us still slack-jawed at the tumultuous tally from some 20 minutes earlier. We set about trying to identify precisely where #8 was today, right now, in the pantheon of elite athletes the world over. Extreme-elite, in their prime, acknowledged by all as sport-dominating and cross-cultural presences. I suggested that Tiger Woods was no.1, but our group had grave difficulty slotting in the next few with any consensus. Beckham? (I suggested that he was on the back nine of his career, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor.) Kobe? (“Is basketball too North American in its appeal,” one media member wondered.)
We were in consensus that Alexander Ovechkin is most definitely in the top 5.