A great 8

June 08, 2018 - 7:18 am
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Let’s just get this out of the way right up front. I love Alex Ovechkin. Always have. I’ve loved Ovechkin since the first time I saw him play with the Washington Capitals. The shot, the speed, the aggressiveness, and above all else, the exuberance.

Ovechkin always looked, to me, like what the idealized version of the athlete should be competing in their sports at the highest level. He looked like he was having more fun than just about anyone else I’ve ever watched.

Not always of course. Ovechkin has carried the playoff failures of his Washington teams with him. That’s the way it works in pro sports. You’re the highest paid and best player on a team and you don’t deliver a championship, or even a long playoff run, and we start to look for flaws.

Some of the criticism of Ovechkin over the years has been unfair. North American bias towards Russian and European players is at the root of that. Antiquated nonsense about not caring about the Stanley Cup as much as the good Canadian boys and all of that crap.

But Ovechkin also earned his share of criticism too. There was a concert on the night between playoff games early in his career. There was Ovechkin famously floating through a back-check against the Rangers in 2013.

So I’ll just settle for he hasn’t always been the manic shot blocking, diving to break up scoring chances against version of Ovechkin we watched this spring. Still, Ovechkin always scored and the Capitals always lost and there’d be more questions about his leadership and his overall effort.

Well that’s all gone now. Wherever the truth lies in the grey areas around the edges of what kind of leader Ovechkin has been and is, a howling version of the man skating around the ice with the trophy paints the definitive Technicolor picture now.

They say time is undefeated. It comes for us all. The sight of Ovechkin, graying around the temples, hoisting that trophy, I hope it speaks to you the way it did me. Ovechkin beat back time, silenced his critics and delivered on the promise of being the first overall pick back in 2004.

It was beautiful.

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