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A little more on Habs-Caps…

Bettman’s nightmare

Gary Bettman and his cronies must be banging their heads against the wall asking why, oh why? I mean, NHL brass even took a page out of his old boss’ handbook, by having the refs call a penalty with less than two minutes remaining.* Still, the Habs fought off the six on four (including almost netting the empty netter, after a phenomenal defensive effort by Nicklas Backstrom), ensuring that a major American market, with one of the NHL’s two biggest stars were prematurely sent to the golf course.

*(to be fair, if this were an NBA game, then instead of the penalties being even with four apiece, Montreal would have had 12 trips to the box to Washington’s 2… The NBA, where David Stern manipulation happens!).

Yes, Montreal is the NHL’s most important franchise, but only in a historical sense. The league does not want a Canadian team, even one with as many Stanley Cups as the Habs, knocking off a large American market, and it especially doesn’t want a playoff that doesn’t involve its two signature stars, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, playing as long as possible and at some point meeting head to head. There is no other way to look at this, while I’m ecstatic, and my old friend Big Sexy is giving out lap dances, Gary Bettman is probably trying to figure out a way to fire the referee who called goalie interference when Washington scored less than a minute in to the third period.

Ovechkin-Crosby

While we’re talking Crosby-Ovechkin, I must admit that heading into the Olympics, I really felt that Ovie was the best player in the NHL. Now? Well, really there’s absolutely no way that you can say Ovechkin is better than Crosby. I’m sorry, you might think that Ovie’s a more natural, dangerous goal scorer than Sid the Kid, but the writings on the wall. Sidney has a cup, he has a Gold medal, and he has his team in the second round. Their teams met last year head to head and Crosby’s team won the all important game seven (in Washington, ouch, maybe they should avoid getting home ice next year). I know that hockey is a team game and I’m always clamoring that you can’t use team titles to judge individuals in a comparison, but… if Ovie wants to be the best player in the world, he has to get more than two points in the three most important games of the season.

In the Olympic final, when the game went in to overtime, with the absurdly exaggerated expectations of 34 million Canadians (not me of course, I had everything completely in perspective…), Sidney Crosby took control of the game. He grabbed the puck, drove to the net, pursued the puck when he lost it, kept after it as it got caught in the refs feet, flipped it to Iginla, drove to the net and buried it. Easy, peasy. Game over, gold medal won. Last night I kept waiting for Ovechkin to do the same and he tried… He did have a couple nice runs, and even had one shot slip through Halak’s pads, before deflecting off his backfoot wide. But for all of Ovie’s talents, he never managed to do what Crosby did for Canada in that gold medal game. Three games and a soft two points for Ovechkin.

There’s still thousands of words yet to be told in this debate. The story has barely finished the first chapter, with each of them still relative babies, but now, today, on April 29th, there can be no debate over who’s better between the NHL’s two signature stars.

Halak’s payday

Jaroslav Halak is a free agent and in a league where goaltending is everything, he just made himself a lot of money. Assuming he doesn’t disintegrate against Crosby’s Penguins, Halak should be looking at a significant pay raise over what he would have earned a week ago. The pressure will be on the Habs to keep him locked up, but goaltending starved teams are everywhere and they will aggressively pursue a backstop who toppled the Capitals.

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