The Caps losing two March games to two New York teams in one weekend while their captain picks up many penalties and publicly complains about officiating isn’t necessarily a huge news event in D.C. But it evidently is in Canada.
Alex Ovechkin talked to reporters about some recent penalty calls before Sunday’s matinee, after Mike Ribeiro had picked up his third unsportsmanlike call of the season Saturday afternoon. Via Caps Insider:
“Of course some refs don’t like some personalities on our team, but anyway, you have to respect us. We’re emotional, we’re in the game,” Ovechkin said. “When we say something bad to linesmen or bad to referees, we can’t give them two minutes when they yell at me or they yell at coaches or yell somebody. It’s kind of position when they have to give us a break.
“If we’re over [the] top of our yelling or screaming, yeah, of course you have to give us two or five or 10, it’s their call,” Ovechkin continued. “Not like if we say one word to them like you’re gonna get two minutes right away…I think the league and the [NHLPA] have to look at it and make a changes.”
Perhaps unusual, probably not incendiary. But these comments got traction north of the border. For example, there was this, from Ray Ferraro, on TSN Radio 1050:
“Ovechkin mentions this before the game, and whether it’s true or not is irrelevant,” Ferraro said. “It’s just not a sharp move. And you know what, when I look at Ovechkin, I don’t see a guy that doesn’t try — although the play he made in the middle of the ice [Sunday] was remarkably soft on [Derek] Stepan, that led to the goal. You know, he either has to hit him, or just get in front of him. Just don’t let him advance at that point.
“But Ovechkin to me, there are no 60-goal scorers in the league any more,” Ferraro said. “There are 40-goal scorers. He’s a 35-to-40-goal scorer, which would put him among the best goal scorers in the league, in my opinion, year after year after year. The one thing that I just don’t know about, it keeps coming back to this for me, is we often talk about players with high hockey IQs. I don’t think he’s got one. I do not think he’s got a high hockey IQ. He goes for power, he goes in straight lines, he doesn’t see around him really well, and to me, one of the great traits that Sidney Crosby has is his ability to think the game at the highest speed. And I don’t think Ovechkin’s got that.”
Not a high hockey IQ, in other words, is where this all led. Pierre McGuire, speaking to the same station, was equally unimpressed.
“It was a lost weekend for the Washington Capitals,” he said. “They were terrible in their game Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders. I mean, they were absolutely horrid. They were out-shot 45-24 in that game. They didn’t even put an effort in, and Ovechkin’s one of the guys that didn’t. And then if you go and watch their game [Sunday], Ovechkin was not exactly having a Hart Trophy kind of a game either. I mean, he just wasn’t very good. And usually when your best player is not your hardest worker and not your best player, chances are everybody else kind of falls.
“The biggest problem for what’s been ailing the Washington Capitals is not having Brooks Laich,” McGuire continued. “He’s really the leader of that team, he’s really the guy that makes it go, he’s the social conscience of that team. I do a lot of their games — they do have guys that are ripping on the officials a lot. And the officials talk. Believe me. They’re human beings. And I think they’re just fed up with some of the stuff that they’ve heard….
“Mike Ribeiro on Saturday took a double minor in the game against the Islanders because he lipped off to one of the linesmen who was dropping the puck,” McGuire said. “Well, yeah, ok, he lipped off, but he also swore at the guy like four times. And at some point guys are just gonna say we’re not taking that any more, we’re just not taking it.”
Which is why Ferraro also said that Ovechkin should not have said what he did about officiating.
“Not a sharp move,” the analyst said. “I mean, I know there was lots of refs that didn’t like me. And that was because I was always on their back. And I’m sure that had I learned to shut my mouth at some point, I would have got the benefit of the doubt on a few calls somewhere along the line. Not that they’re gonna give you a break, but you get the benefit – oh, maybe he didn’t hook em, maybe he didn’t hold ‘em. You get the benefit. I’m sure I got none of those with certain refs. I’m positive of it. But now that I’m well out of the game, you can look back and go you know what, it was probably deserved. If you’re telling some guy he’s a donkey three times a night, why is he gonna give you a break?”