On a podcast broadcast early this year, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports and Jeff Marek of Canada’s Sportsnet were talking about Phil Kessel.
Kessel is the most-skilled player on the Toronto Maple Leafs but he is far from reliable. He turns it on and off. He is a coach-killer and nobody considers him a leader. In discussing this, Wyshynski used a two-word shorthand to summarise the grim view of Kessel.
“Ovechkin north,” he said.
And this is what it has come to for Alexander Ovechkin, three-time winner of the NHL's MVP trophy, captain of the Washington Capitals, purportedly one of the game's superstars.
Whatever his regular-season successes – and this year he led the league in goals scored with 53 – he has become a frame of reference for talented bums everywhere. He is the standard for an entire sport’s divas.
The only way the big Russian winger can change this – and the same holds true for many a player’s reputation, for better or worse – is to stand out in the post-season.
The Stanley Cup play-offs begin on Thursday night. Reputations are about to be burnished or tarnished.
Not only Ovechkin, but a handful of others have much at stake in the esteem department.
The Sedin twins in Vancouver have a chance to wipe away the stench of their devastating loss in the 2011 Cup finals, when the Boston Bruins crushed them in Game 7, in Vancouver, setting off a riot. Sidney Crosby is in a reversal of fortune as first-round underdog – maybe, in a reversal of outcome, he can guide his team to a surprising victory. PK Subban led the Montreal Canadiens to the conference finals last year; but he walks the wire between bold and rash and could easily end the season as hero or goat.
But of them all, the one with the most to gain is Ovechkin.
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