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Alexander Ovechkin changed the face of the Stanley Cup playoffs a month before they begin with a single play on Sunday afternoon in Chicago. His exploits are splashed across sports pages from here to Fairbanks this morning. But like much of the publicity he has generated this season Ovechkin is in the headlines again for all of the wrong reasons.
Ovechkin ended the season of the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell at 12:16 of the first period Sunday afternoon when he pushed the defenseman who had just cleared the puck around his net. Campbell crashed heavily into the boards and laid on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.
At least two sources confirm that Campbell suffered a broken collarbone and cracked ribs in the frightening crash which lead to Ovechkin being assessed his third game misconduct of the season.
The Capitals star narrowly escaped an automatic one game suspension under section 46.2 of the NHL
rules because more than 41 games had elapsed since his first game misconduct but will still face a disciplinary hearing with Colin Campbell later in the week.
Had Ovechkin hit you that hard walking down F Street in front of the Verizon Center chances are you would not have dropped your cup of Starbucks. But then again you would not have been moving at more than 20 miles per hour on a sheet of ice.
Simply put what Alexander the No So Great Anymore did Sunday afternoon in front of a national TV audience was just plain dirty. It showed blatant disrespect for an opponent and the game and it left his teammates shorthanded for the rest of the afternoon.
Sadly, none of the above is surprising anymore. It's not the first time Ovechkin has done something this reckless this season. It's not even the first time that the guy with the Mach 2 slapshot has left teammates hanging out to dry this month.
Suddenly the guy who was chasing Sidney Crosby
for the title of the Best Hockey Player on Planet Earth now finds himself chasing Crosby's teammate Matt Cooke for title of the Dirtiest Hockey Player on Planet Earth.
Ovechkin has been tossed from three games in the last year and that number could easily have risen to four had his knee on knee hit on Sergei Gonchar not taken place in the middle of one of the most intense playoff series in the history of the league last spring. It says here that number will increase unless the league takes action as soon as tomorrow.
Ovechkin simply isn't capable of remorse in situations like this which makes the serial killer mentality in this all the more striking. He has never once even apologized to his teammates for the trouble this is causing them on the ice or to opponents that he has knocked off the ice. So long as he's scoring goals and is the center of attention all is right in Ovechkin's world, the results be damned.
Here is where Colin Campbell can actually redeem himself for a month of bad decision making and maybe save Ovechkin from himself. By sitting the Capital captain down for five games Campbell be sending a message that he's as tired of the shenanigans as everyone else. Campbell could draw a line in the sand that says "respect your opponent, or else."
At the same time the league would be getting its message across to Ovechkin by taking something precious away from him. Five games in the press box would assure that he would not lead the league in scoring and could not take home the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals. It would also dig into his wallet not only in fines but in bonuses missed. That is the language that Alex speaks and understands.
In an odd way Campbell might be doing the Capitals a favor in sitting their star down. Both coach Bruce Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee have had conversations with Ovechkin this season about controlling his game and all have fallen on deaf ears.
While the situation has not yet cost the conference leading Capitals such a moment of stupidity next month in the Stanley Cup playoffs could short circuit a run to the Cup. Its obvious by his actions that Ovechkin still doesn't understand that.
Alex Ovechkin is at a fork in the road in his career. He has shown the ability to score goals by the dozen and let at the same time he has shown the ability to disappear in crucial situations. Does he want to be known for Stanley Cups and Olympic medals or for the ability to be seized by the moment rather than the other way around?