A lot of people on the Internet were making fun of Alex Ovechkin on Thursday, based largely on this gif from Derek Stepan’s game-winning Game 4 goal. For example:
Deadspin: “That’s Ovechkin, giving zero [hecks] about defense and looking like the world’s saddest man. You really have to admire his ability to look that apathetic in the middle of a playoff hockey game.”
The Big Lead: “It looks like Ovechkin could have made it there to disrupt the shot. He certainly could have made a better show of trying to do so, by moving his legs.”
For The Win: “Alex Ovechkin appears to have given up.”
HuffPo: “In the video above, Ovechkin is shown slowly skating into the frame as the Rangers put on a passing clinic leading up to Stepan’s goal.”
Sports Pickle: Ovechkin “continues to not give a crap about defense/half the sport of hockey.”
And so on. I didn’t chime in, because I was busy taking screenshots of Drew Storen acting like a cocktail waitress, but I also I didn’t totally know what Ovechkin’s role here should have been. So now here’s Alan May, with Chick Hernandez on Comcast SportsNet, to explain. His conclusion: everyone was at fault, but Ovechkin was probably less at fault than others. May’s words, with CSN Images.
“They’re down a goal. He’s trying to fly the zone. The puck is supposed to get out of the zone. It’s an easy play. Marcus Johansson makes a blunder. You see Jack Hillen’s going to get to the puck first, then Johansson gets over there. Ovi cuts through the middle, then he’s gonna take off down the ice. They’re trying to create an odd-man rush. It’s 3-2, third period, Madison Square Garden….
“When you’re in the National Hockey League, you bounce that out of the zone, you get it into neutral ice, or you tap it over every time to Backstrom, who will get it up to Ovechkin. But what happens here, that’s a very very very soft play [by Johansson] in that area right there.”
“Now watch the lack of effort by the two forwards here, if you want to be critical. They’re standing around, looking. All of a sudden everyone’s caught up. You see right there, Oleksy (circled) is gonna fall down in that collision, Hillen’s got to get back, but you know what, Marcus Johansson, he’s got to get back to help out.”
“So it’s not just Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s up in the neutral zone, inadvertent collision up top. We’ve already seen the giveaway, now those two forwards closest to the puck, they’ve got to get back. That puck should have been up in the neutral zone, Backstrom should have been out of there, it could have been a 2-on-2 or a 2-on-1. And all of a sudden there’s players jumping in, falling into each other all over the place. A comedy of errors.
“Four Caps, outnumbering right now the Rangers down low. Ovechkin’s coming back — sure it’s slow. But you know what, there’s two other wingers closer to the net, the defenseman gets caught, he falls down. It’s just a comedy of errors. It’s not all Ovechkin’s fault, regardless of the gifs that are floating around the Internet. It’s a team game. He’s the guy that’s supposed to be creating offense. He’s not the right defenseman on the third defensive unit. He’s got to find ways to score goals. So you know what, get that puck out of the zone, none of that happens.”