I know you’re all anxious to read Skip Bayless’s thoughts about Alex Ovechkin, but first, a few comments:
* I have now written back-to-back posts featuring Michael Wilbon and Skip Bayless slamming Alex Ovechkin. If anything should give Caps fans solace, that might be it.
* Maybe the NHL conspiracy actually was to not penalize the Rangers in Game 6 so that Ovechkin would mention a possible conspiracy, leading PTI and First Take to devote rare air time to a hockey debate. That’s like a next-level conspiracy, but if so, it definitely worked.
* I happened to be listening to a Kenny Albert appearance with Stephen A. Smith’s radio show on Monday afternoon. One of Smith’s questions began like this: “Explain to us, people like myself, novices, who don’t really know much about this team….” Something tells me Smith didn’t watch a ton of the Caps-Rangers series between the time he posed that question and the time he began opining on the officiating.
* In analyzing Ovechkin’s critical comments about the officiating in Game 6, the real question is something like this: Should Michael Del Zotto have been penalized for his seemingly late hit on Mathieu Perrault, and/or should Ryan Callahan have been penalized for his seemingly high hit on Jack Hillen. These are complicated questions, and as much Caps hockey as I watch, I haven’t watched enough of the rest of the NHL playoffs to provide a meaningful answer. But that’s not a very sexy stance, so instead we got this.
Bayless: “[The officiating] didn’t actually impact what became a 1-0 win for the Rangers, and then of course they won Game 7. Here’s the point for Ovechkin: The greatest player in hockey had zero points in the final five games of this series. ZERO points. It is blame deflecting. Ovechkin had one goal in Game 1. Period, end of story. So your conspiracy theory is to blame-deflect, it’s to distract attention from the most pertinent fact of this series: the greatest player came up small. He froze up on the ice.
“I don’t know what happened: either the other team was just that much better defensively, but Ovechkin was not Ovechkin. So don’t give me conspiracy theories, even though you can make that case based on what happened, with how the game was officiated in Game 6. Still, did it really affect the series the way he’s saying it did? I don’t think so.”
Smith: “I don’t attach a level of credibility to what he said, because I think it’s irresponsible to accuse a league of such a heinous thing. That’s a strong, strong accusation, and talk about deserving a big-time fine for it, he definitely deserves it. He’s lucky he’s not an NBA player that said that about the game. I can assure you, he’d forget he had a paycheck coming by the time David Stern got through with him, but Gary Bettman’s a different deal. But to some degree, he’s very very close to David Stern and I imagine that he would probably try to come down just as heavy-handed.
“What I would say to you is this, however: even though I attach no credibility to what he said, let’s not summarily dismiss where it’s coming from. I’m not going to look at him and say he’s a great player, scored no goals in the last five games and as a result he’s bitter and that’s what it is. He’s a guy out there, he’s recognized universally – or at least widely – as the best in the game.
“And to have the kind of series that he had, to have home-ice advantage, not close the deal and at the same time the New York Rangers weren’t penalized at all over the last several games, I get where he’s coming from. From the standpoint of looking at the popularity of the league, some of the things it’s been through, the way they focus on money, I can understand a player feeling that way. That doesn’t make him right, doesn’t make him accurate, but I don’t think his frustration is just borne of him not scoring any goals. I think the frustration does run deeper than that, that’s all I’m trying to say.”