The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.
The Southeast Division, the NHL's equivalent of the Republican presidential nomination race, now has a three-way tie at the top with Atlanta, Carolina and Washington. The only reason the Capitals are there is named Alexander Ovechkin, who scored his 48th goal with 1:21 left to steal a charity point for Washington before the Thrashers won in the shootout, 4-3. Even if you're rooting against his team, I didn't think there was any denying his talent, his frontrunner status for the Hart Trophy (MVP Award, U.S.) or the unmitigated joy of seeing how he plays the game; he's more fun to watch than a "Wonder Showzen" marathon during a Percocet bender. But that was until I found an admitted Ovie-basher who not only thinks Ovechkin is a "son of a bitch" and a "Russian dummy," but painstakingly mocks his post-goal celebrations in a poorly lit basement.
For those of you who choose not to immerse yourselves in the laconic diatribe in the following video, allow me to transcribe the first portion of this "HockeyFools08" soliloquy titled "Alexander Ovechkin Sucks!!": "I'm here to talk about son of a bitch, dumbass, motherfucking Russian dummy Alexander Ovechkin. First off, the celebrations: Why? Just somebody answer that for me. Why does he jump up and down for every goal he gets? He scores a (sic) empty net goal and he starts jumping around like it's the Stanley Cup? Last time I checked, it's one goal."
Yikes. Insightful commentary begets insightful commentary, as this rant has received feedback like "U HAVE AN UGLY FACE U SUCK" on its YouTubage page. The trouble is that I'm sure this guy isn't alone, and there's a small legion of Debbie Downers who want to attach their hack criticism and "waaaah-wah" horns to every Ovechkin lovefest. I imagine these are the same people who complain that "Airplane!" lacked plot cohesion.
Even if you don't think Ovechkin is the best player in hockey — and I think the best player in the NHL is Sidney Crosby, even if half of you are mumbling "pussy" under your breath right now — cutting down A.O. for his unbridled enthusiasm is pretty much the dumbest fucking critique I've heard since Brodeur whined that his visor was too dark. To these poopie-pants, I say, in the words of the great Crow T. Robot: "Bite me ... it's fun."
Byfuglien! Poor Dustin Byfuglien. Many hockey fans hit their pillows last night believing the Chicago Blackhawks' man-child had scored a hat-trick in their 7-2 curb-stomping of the Blue Jackets. Whoops: Turns out the last goal was actually a Freddy Modin "own goal" that was credited to Robert Lang. Columbus's Fredrik Norrena was such a sieve last night that Hitchcock tossed in a flu-riddled Pascal Leclaire in relief.
But I feel bad for Byfuglien. Here's a 22-year-old guy without a position who's still getting teased for being overweight, even after dropping from 280 pounds to 246. Chicago Sun-Times headline today: "Offense gets fat on backup goalie." Oh. Snap. It doesn't help when Byfuglien has postgame quotes like, "We came out of the gates hungry and ready to go." Once a chubby kid, always a chubby kid. Forget the Indian, Dustin: Commit to the Salad Bar.
Chara > Malkin. As someone who used to salivate at the thought of watching Scott Stevens pound the shit out of Jagr or Lindros for 60 minutes while shadowing them, it must have been interesting to watch Zdeno Chara face down Evgeni Malkin last night in Boston's 2-1 win over Pittsburgh. And by "interesting," I mean like watching a big, goofy-looking Russian being shut down by a bigger, goofier-looking Slovak. At least now the rest of the League knows how to handle Malkin; all they need to do is find 28 more 6-foot-9 hockey players who look like goons from a Bond sequel. Shouldn't be too difficult.
Anyway ... last night was Advantage: Chara. This is why even magical genies and/or former members of the Fu Schnickens want his autograph. "Can you make this out to 'Kobe Blows?'"
* Meanwhile in that Bruins/Pens game, Aaron Ward becomes yet another gruesome and ultimately bizarre injury victim when he takes a hit to the throat and begins spitting up blood. Said Chara: "When I got there, he was holding his throat and making a choking sound ... like he was gasping for air." Good Lord...maybe my "make them all wear chain mail" idea yesterday wasn't so outlandish. [Boston Globe]
* Your official hockey poem for Valentine's Day, with accompanying cartoon. "When we first met, my dear, you gave me that look/And from that first moment, my poor heart was hooked/I thought it would pass, but that wasn't the case/You cut into my heart with a high-stick to its face." [The FanHouse]
* Blackhawks vs. Red Wings at Solider Field? Count me in. If Ditka's there, ready to throw down against Ted Lindsay. [The Fourth Period]
* The eight worst trades of all-time, without a single mention of Mike Milbury or the Toronto Maple Leafs? Is that even possible? [USA TODAY]
* Finally, another quarterfinal in the KB's Greatest Hit of All-Time tournament. I'm not trying to influence the vote, but here's your winner. "WHHHHHOOOOWHAT A HIT BY CAMPBELL!"