Alex Ovechkin. The man plays with passion, with heart, and is one of the most exciting players in the league.
These were the raves going into this season after Ovechkin came off of a season that saw him win his second MVP award in a row and once again taking home the Rocket Ricard. Since then, some things just haven't been the same for Alex the Great.
Witness just the past 365 days and what has happened:
He intentionally goes knee-to-knee with Sergei Gonchar in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals.
He fails to show up in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals, his Caps get blown out of the water by the Penguins and Sidney Crosby (who has two goals and an assist in that game).
Come October of the start of this season, Ovechkin is already out dishing out dirty tactics as he slew foots Rich Peverly as they battle for a puck scooting along the boards.
In November of 2009, Ovechkin needlessly boards the Buffalo Sabres Patrick Kaleta . He was penalized and ejected because it was not only a boarding but it drew blood. It was largely glossed over and ignored because the love train was still being ridden by the majority of people in the media.
Not even five days later, he knee's the Carolina Hurricane's Tim Gleason.
This time was different. Ovechkin hurt himself, could barely put any pressure on his knee. It looked like his reckless, bull-in-a-china-shop mentality finally caught up to him. In the end he would be out a total of three games with a knee injury (making his two game suspension for the knee-to-knee seem ridiculous).
His next failure came on the biggest stage of all, the stage he'd been expected to excel in. The Olympics. He was the face of his team, a team Russia that dramatically under achieved in Vancouver. His numbers in the games were disappointing at best. Only two goals and two assists in four games (the majority coming against a hapless Latvia).
His disappointing performance was led by an embarrassing 7-3 defeat at the hands of Team Canada. Once again he found himself on the wrong end of a hand shake with Sidney Crosby, who also proved his superior by scoring the OT game winner to win the Gold for Canada.
As if that weren't embarrassing enough, a video shows him shoving a camera person out of the way while in Vancouver. This person happens to be a woman. Who came to Vancouver from Russia. To see Ovechkin play. The woman was left with bruises from the incident.
Finally, the latest incident. As Brian Campbell skated in his own end gathering the puck to shoot it along the boards, Ovechkin, in his thoughtless way, skated in behind him. Campbell rid himself of the puck and Ovechkin didn't notice or didn't care, giving Campbell a powerful shove from behind.
Campbell goes flying into the boards, defenseless from a cheap shot he didn't see coming. The results? For Campbell they are broken ribs, broken collar bone, grade two concussion. A lost season. For Ovechkin they are an ejection and it looks like that's about it.
The most sickening thing about the broadcast crew on NBC was not just their continued praise of Ovechkin for his passion and hard play after the hit, it was their defending of the play in saying that the refs over reacted and that it was not a shot from behind.
This is all from the past year. His accusations of charging, kneeing, and boarding go back as far as his career in the NHL goes. The problem is that everyone was too busy watching him score pretty goals to notice. Now it seems people are taking notice. The shine is coming off of the MVP.
People will still love him and defend him for his "passion," "heart," "courage," and they will continue to ignore the worst of what he does. They'll gloss it over or pretend it doesn't exist. That's their right to do so. The intelligent hockey community will see what a cheap shot artist he is and his gloss will become much less shiny.
The unfortunate thing about Ovechkin's play is that he can be a very, very electrifying player. He has earned the praise he has received.
He also deserves far more scorn than he has received to date. It will catch up with him one day. He will slow down. His body won't be able to handle the abuse it takes and one day someone will get tired and go after him. They will take out his knee, board him, charge him, and he'll never be the same.
Karma will catch up to him eventually and it will pre-maturely end what could be a fantastic career. If he keeps playing like this, I won't be disappointed.