There's a lot of talk among hockey fans these days about who the best player is. Who is the best player in the NHL? Who is the best hockey player in the world? Who's better, Crosby or Ovechkin? With Stamkos now on the scene, does he join the conversation? Corey Perry just had a 50-goal season as the league MVP. What about the legends of hockey like Gretzky and Orr—how do these new players measure up to them?
Well, I have some answers. Alex Ovechkin, the Great Eight, is the best player in the world. While he wasn't around in hockey's early days to revolutionize the game like Orr and Gretzky did; while he doesn't have the wins on the big stage like Sidney Crosby does; while he's not as new and flashy (anymore) as Steven Stamkos, Ovie is the best player in the world.
To be up front, if you are looking for an article bashing Sidney Crosby, this is not a good read for you. Crosby is an incredible player—certainly one of the best the world has ever seen. Sure, a lot of people have problems with his attitude and a purported lack of sportsmanship and respect for the game and other players—I can be counted among them—but he is an incredibly skilled player.
Whether or not you like his attitude, you have to admire his work ethic with which he turns his world-class raw talent into world-class production and winning game play.
Crosby is a great player—there's no doubt about it—but Ovechkin is far better and here's why.
In honor of the Great Eight, here are eight reasons why he's the best.
Let me explain something about this slideshow—I'm not going to use statistical analyses or go on-and-on talking about what trophies and honors Ovechkin has won versus what trophies and honors Crosby has won. I don't care who has won what, and I definitely don't care about statistical analyses (right now, at least).
Those things have a time and place, but I think we are all sick and tired of that age old debate over great players' statistical performances.
Instead of writing just another article of the type of which we are all sick, I'm going to refresh you. I'm not going to tell you why Ovechkin is the greatest player alive as much as I'm going to show you why he is the greatest.
In each of the following slides, I will write about one of Ovechkin's qualities that make him great. Each of these qualities will be accompanied by one of his highlight reel goals that showcases that particular quality.
So, let's begin. I advise you run and grab a box of tissues right now, as this may leave you drooling and even crying over the sheer beauty of what you are about to witness.
If you don't know that Alex Ovechkin loves to score, you've probably been living under a rock. This guy just absolutely loves putting the puck in the net.
But more than that, he loves everything about the game. Ovie loves playing, winning and coming up big for his team.
He is one of the most passionate players in the world. Probably the most passionate.
One of the things that makes Alexander the Great so fascinating to watch is not necessarily how often he scores and in what high-flying fashion he scores; it's his love of the game.
It translates into many aspects of his game. When his team is looking slow, he's the first one to hustle and the first one to throw a big hit to try to spark his team. We even saw him drop the mitts in one of the two games against the New York Rangers during the Capitals' eight-game losing streak last season.
He loves the game.
But of course, the aspect of his game in which his passion is most obvious is his goal celebrations. Sometimes you can see Ovie playing with an edge, with pent-up energy and desire to bulge the twine, and when he finally does, he goes absolutely nuts during his celebration.
Passion is infectious. It's no coincident that just about every little kid learning to play loves to do the goal celebration Ovie has made famous—jumping into the glass after potting the biscuit.
The video above is from the 2006-2007 regular season. It was the Great Eight's seventh goal of the season. Sure, the goal itself is great, but watch the excitement in Ovie's face after he scores.
It's true: Hockey players never grow up. But Ovie really has gone above-and-beyond in not losing his sheer unadulterated passion and excitement for the greatest game in the world.
Also, has anyone ever wondered to themselves how Ovie has not broken many teammate's bones when he tackles them after they score? Semin seems to get the worst of it, but forget Ovie himself scoring; the guy just loves seeing his team put the puck in the net.
Nobody can beat the amount of passion Ovechkin has for the game.
OK, so maybe I'm opening a can of worms here, but still on the subject of goal celebrations...
Ovechkin's celebration of his 50th goal in the 2009-2010 season was widely controversial. Canadian analyst Don Cherry ripped Ovechkin on television, while others loved it.
Fault Alex or not for this particular goal celebration; showmanship is a great quality for a star player to have. Consider the amount (unnecessary amount, perhaps) of showmanship in the NFL and NBA. Sports are entertainment, and people love being entertained.
Well, Ovie loves to entertain. He makes jaws drop with his highlight reel goals and then gives fans the rest of what they paid for with his entertaining goal celebrations.
Hockey is gaining popularity in the States, but it still needs more a lot more recognition, as it is the least popular of the fourth major sports in the U.S. (basketball, football, baseball and hockey). As sick of most of us die-hard fans are of Ovechkin and Crosby being marketed incessantly, it's good for the sport because those two guys are easily recognizable faces and names.
Maybe the Great Eight can be hot-headed at times, but let's be honest, who doesn't like seeing some hot-headedness from athletes on their favorite team every now and again—especially at big moments or in important games?
It's Alex's love of putting on a show that enables him to think-up and pull-off ridiculous and unthought of moves to score goals, win games and ensure that hockey is the best sport to watch.
High-flying goals are Ovie's style. Ovechkin loves playing the point on the power-play. He loves scoring off the rush after breaking as many ankles as possible with his great between-the-legs gates.
He's not a plant-himself-in-front-of-the-net type of guy.
However, when the Caps shifted their philosophy and game-play style in the middle of the last season, everyone's offensive game suffered. Now, Alex wasn't having himself a great season to begin with, but everyone who watched could tell he struggled with finding the balance between his game and playing a more conservative forecheck and defensive game.
Sure, he struggled for a little while, but during the playoffs, it was obvious that the Great Eight was willing to do whatever was necessary to win games.
That included parking himself in front of the net and stabbing at rebounds.
In this particular play, Alex had parked himself in front of the net to wait for a rebound. Not your typical Ovie, right? Teammate Alexander Semin then decided to bring the puck toward the net instead of shooting.
Semin put the puck right by Ovie's feet and just in front of Rangers' goalie Henrik Lunqvist. Ovie proceeds to put the puck between Lunqvist's legs and stab at it until, as he's literally being tackled, he finally jams the puck home.
It's Ovie's willingness to do whatever is necessary to win that makes him such a great player. When he team is out of morale, he always seems to get a second life. When his coach needs him to do something in order to win, he does it. We've seen him bust his tail to get back and save the puck from going in to an empty net, post a hat-trick to get his team the "W" and now we've seen him post-up in front of the net to poke in rebounds.
Often times, what makes a great player is not so much talent as it is work ethic and a willingness to do anything and everything necessary to win.
Alexander the Great has that attitude, and it's a big part of what makes him so great.
Everyone has probably watched this video more times in a row without blinking than can possibly be healthy for the eyes.
There's a reason why it was Ovie and not anyone else who scored this goal. Most professional hockey players have great awareness on the ice—they know where their teammates are, which passing lanes are open, where the net is and how the goalie is positioned all without having the look for long if at all.
Stars like Ovechkin go beyond this, though. All-stars in every sport have this uncanny ability to know where they are, what's going on and what they're doing in the most ridiculous, awkward and impossible situations and make something out of it.
This ability could be called many different things, but in this case, we'll call it having a nose for the net.
In this particular case, which we're all familiar with, the Great Eight tries to go outside-inside but gets tripped down. Then, as he's doing a full 360-degree barrel role on the, he still slides the puck in the net. Oh, and when he's finished, he only has one-hand on the stick.
The most incredible part is that while Ovie is rolling and can't see the net, he still knows where the net is and manages to put the puck in it.
Such an ability translates into great success. He knows when to go to the net and when to shoot the puck; we've even seen him score an empty-net goal from 200-feet with a backhand shot.
The Great Eight can score from anywhere, with any shot, in any situation.
He is the greatest player in the world, and he shows it night-in and night-out with his incredible nose-for-the-net play.
There's not much to this one. Ovechkin has the greatest one-timer in the game. Period, end of story.
Ovie struggled this last season while playing the point on the power play, but that doesn't change the fact that his one-timer is an absolute laser.
There is nothing in hockey like watching a quality one-timer being ripped on net. It is by far the hardest shot in hockey to take. It requires precision timing and form.
It's also the hardest for goalies to stop.
Ovechkin has one of the hardest one-time shots in the league and probably the most accurate. It is the deadliest weapon in his vast arsenal and certainly one of the most fascinating to watch.
When watching the Great Eight take a one-time shot on TV, viewers can't even see the puck. There's just the slap of Ovie's stick on the ice and Joe Beninati yelling, "He scores!" When watching at the Verizon Center, there's a blur traveling toward the net for an instant, the bulging of the twine and the goal horn blasting.
Having a hard shot in one thing. Having an accurate shot is another thing. Having a shot that is both is incredible. Having it come off of Ovechkin's stick, well, that's just unfair.
I also want to mention how incredible it is that Ovie's one-timer is as good as it is with the blade curve he uses. He has to be ridiculously precise in his timing because of his curve.
Believe me, I've tried it. For anyone who thinks that Ovie is cheap because of the curve he uses, I say shame on you. As many advantages as that stick gives him, it sure gives him some disadvantages, too. But that's beside my point.
The greatest one-time shot in the world belongs to the greatest player in the world, Alexander Ovechkin.
OK, Alex Ovechkin takes on almost all of the Buffalo Sabres on-ice in his rush to score this goal.
It begs the question: What does it take to stop this guy?
He avoids an initial poke-check from the defenseman at the blue line, out-skates a backchecker, loose-puck dekes around the other defenseman and then avoids the same defenseman's poke-check and finally rips the puck past the netminder while being tripped down and finishes the play off by sliding into the goaltender and his net, just for good measure.
When the Great Eight really sets his mind to something, he cannot be stopped.
Some say that defensemen have now figured out how to shut him down and he's not that great anymore. Such a notion is laughable.
I admit, I was frustrated with his not-so-stellar season last year, but whether you like it or not, Alexander Ovechkin is unstoppable. He just keeps coming and coming, never giving up until he gets what he wants.
I have a feeling that this quality will lead him to a Stanley Cup sooner rather than later. This guy is unstoppable, and anyone who thinks that this doesn't include his quest for the Cup needs to have his or her brain checked.
This is another famous Ovie story everyone knows. He gets his nose broken—maybe on two separate occasions (one from a high-stick, one from a shoulder to the face)—and responds by laying several huge hits and posting four goals and five points.
Some think that Ovechkin plays with too much of an edge—they think that his overly-physical play will end up hurting his career. Yet, it's the games where the play is most physical where the Great Eight thrives.
When Alex gets pissed, he becomes much more dangerous with the puck.
It's not often that you see a skill and finesse all-star laying the amount of body-checks that Alex Ovechkin does. That's what separates him from the rest. Lots of star snipers aren't exactly tough players. A lot of them are not only lacking physical toughness, but mental toughness as well.
We see it in players like Alexander Semin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Gaborik.
I promised I wouldn't talk about Crosby but he's your run-of-the-mill star who can't take a big hit without complaining about it and cussing out the refs.
What makes Ovechkin so great is that he's not worried the consequences of playing a full game. Some call it risky and foolish. I call it being tough and complete.
It's the same reason Ryan Getzlaf and Cory Perry do so well together in Anaheim. Those guys love to bang bodies as much as they love to score.
No player in the world can combine physicality with dazzling finesse and skill like Alexander the Great can. This combination makes him next to impossible to play against.
Not only is he tough physically but mentally as well. When things aren't going his way, Ovechkin keeps on striving and pushing toward his goal whether it's short-term or long-term. This guy is tough, and it's one of the many qualities that make him the best player in the world.
There is a multitude of videos that could've been used to exhibit Ovechkin's creativity, but this one is really quite something.
In the few practices leading up to this game, Boudreau said that Ovie had been practicing this move. Boudreau said he never thought Ovie would try it in a game. Well, he did. And it worked quite well.
Ovechkin has a chance to create a highlight reel goal or play every time he touches the puck. He uses his creativity to set himself up, set others up and finish plays in incredible ways.
A guy who can put-up 100 points and 50 goals just about every season is incredible enough, but to do in the fashion the Great Eight does is another thing entirely. Imagine if a guy scored all of his 50 goals in front of the net on rebounds. Well that's fine and all—it's how hockey is played, right? But that's nothing to be excited about in comparison to the world-class talent and creativity that Ovechkin displays night-in and night-out.
There are some players who are expected to make things happen every time they're on the ice, but Ovechkin brings it to another level.
If you've been to a game at the Verizon Center, then you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that every time Ovie starts brining the puck up ice, the entire arena both starts to buzz in anticipation and hold its breath at the same time.
Hockey fans don't just expect Alex to score whenever he has the puck; they expect him to do something that nobody has ever seen.
That makes Ovechkin the best player in the world.
Well, that's it, folks!
Hope you enjoyed this article. I know there will always be those out there who think someone else is better, but as for me, I've made up my mind.
Alex Ovechkin is the best player in the world, and he has a long and sure-to-be impressive career ahead of him.
Agree or disagree? Comments? Someone else you think is better? Leave a comment. Keep it civil, though.