Yesterday, Alexander Ovechkin returned to his apartment in DC. He went through the entryway papered entirely with 100-unit currency from every country in the world, past the multiscreen theater that replays endless loops of the best goals he’s scored in NHL 07, past the bedroom full of peacefully dozing concubines, to the enormous library where he keeps his extensive collection of early Christian mystical exegesis. Pushing aside the heavy burgundy velvet curtains, he caressed his burnished brass bust of Paisius Velishkovsky, feeling for the secret spot behind the ear. Finding it, he pressed the button, and the false shelf of illustrated apocrypha swung back, revealing an iron spiral staircase which he descended to his hidden lair deep beneath the city. There he knelt before the altar of the Hockey Gods, and with one arm swept the surface clean, knocking to the floor with one motion his assortment of large, drippy red-white-and-blue candles, and breaking the jar containing his first-generation Crosby homunculus, which skittered to the corner in terror. Then, taking a photo of Huet clipped from the newspapers and a large knife, he cut his palms and smeared blood over the heathen idols, and thereby vowed to avenge on the Canadiens every goal with which they had humiliated him in the previous day’s shutout.
1. There are things in hockey you can analyze, and there are things you can’t. Ovechkin can’t be analyzed. He can barely even be discussed. Because when he is on, he is a force in the purest sense. He’s a living incarnation of the id of every ambitious 16-year-old who’s ever played the game, a careening ball of perpetual motion and infinitely regenerated momentum. Containment is the best an opponent can do, but even that is pointless if it’s not complete. Tonight, the Habs stopped him 4 times out of 5, and that wasn’t enough- four goals, five points, and 24 of the most insane shifts I’ve ever seen. Say what you will about the other dramatic, statistically significant players in the game today, there’s still nobody more worth watching for sheer visceral pleasure. Or horror.
2. That said, I’m still proud of ahbabi on this one. The worst you can say, really, is that they came out unprepared for the level of physical aggression the Capitals brought, and that cost them. But this game definitely looked like it was going to be a hell of a lot worse than the score ended up- when OV got his second and the Habs went down 3-0, I thought that all that was left was for him to bend our entire team one by one over the Caps’ bench and… uh… you know. And since everything in hockey is about expectations, the fact that they cut mine down so low before coming back to get the OT point makes me quite happy with the overall result.
3. The Habs’ biggest problem in the future may be that Mama Kostitsyn didn’t have no more babies. For the first time, both brothers score on the same night, Sergei in a quick retaliation after the Capitals’ third, Andrei with literally half a second remaining in period 2, enough to bring the score to 3-2 and buoy their teammates for an intense finale. I don’t suppose there are any sisters? Cousins maybe?
4. And with Latendresse scoring the final two to take the game to OT, it was certainly a big night for the darari line, which I think illustrates one of the best aspects of the Habs’ current play: while the Plekanec line still generates most of the scoring, the other three all have shown enough offensive potential that they can exploit whoever gets the weakest match-ups. In the past few matches, we’ve seen multi-goal games from each trio, and it’s important for everybody’s confidence to know that nowadays, shutting down one or even two lines isn’t enough to shut down our offense completely. As to Latendresse himself, these were his 13th and 14th goals of the season, which puts him in a similar category to Higgins- guys who are among the Habs better scorers, but are subject to such high expectations that they often get more criticism than appreciation. However, Gui’s vague and often-inconsistent play style does make it kind of difficult to have faith in him, no matter how much one wants to. I still think he has a ton of potential, but- comparative to the rest of the Habs’ youth- the question of “potential to be what?” still seems largely unanswered.
Stealing a point from the designated avatar of the hockey gods is still an achievement, but I think the larger moral here is how close it was given the Habs’ very pathetic initial effort. If they’d begun the game prepared to match the Capitals’ intensity, if they hadn’t sat back for a period, Ovechkin might have had a three-goal, four-point night on a losing team. That’s something to remember next time an ‘easy’ opponent comes along.