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On Luck, Gamesmanship and Sean Avery

(By Bruce Bennett - Getty)

The hot topic in the media room tonight concerned the post-game celebration pulled off by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. After the entire team had congratulated Simeon Varlamov and left the ice, the two stars skated toward the deserted center ice and leaped up into each other, NBA style. Then they skated off.

The crowd howled. Jeered. Cursed. Two beer battles crashed onto the ice.

"We've been doing it all season, doesn't matter where it is," Backstrom said. "I heard the crowd was yelling at us, but it was nothing against them, it was just a thing we have."

Well, now it's a thing the New York writers have, and they're going to run with it. Of course, we all ran with the Ovechkin getting kicked out of the Rangers' morning skate story line, and by this evening Alex was done with that topic.

"Well, I don't want to talk about it," he said. "Just you guys again, try to make some big story about it. I forget about it."

Fine, so we'll turn to the other gamesmanship star of this series, Sean Avery, he of the four minors, the game misconduct, the shot to the mug of John Erskine and the shove of Varlamov. He left the ice to a standing ovation, given by hundreds of Rangers fans who brought their Avery sweaters out of storage. They love this guy. Can't imagine why fans who throw popcorn on D.C. fans in wheelchairs would like Avery.

"I mean, he did his job," Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's what Sean does, he's standing in front of the goalie all night long. I thought he went over the line a couple times and he got called for it, but that's what he's good at. He's got a lot of courage. It takes a lot of courage just to go to the front of the net and do what he does. And he probably got a little frustrated at the end, but he's a guy I worry about every night."

Here's one more topic: Luck. First, the Caps said their losses in Games 1 and 2 were due to poor luck. Then, they said they just needed more effort and grime, and would deliver that in Game 3. Sure enough, they did, but they went back to talking about luck, specifically the first period sequence when Ryan Callahan clanked a shot off the post and the Caps went down to score for a 2-0 lead.

"That happens so often," Boudreau said. "I mean, it happened to us against the Rangers, where we'd miss one, they'd come down and they score. It's the luck of hockey and the luck of sport. Some guy hits a post on a great opportunity and you go down the other end and score. And instead of 1-1 you've got 2-0, and you're team is going in after the first period with a lot of confidence."

"I was lucky there," said Backstrom, who got his stick on the shot. "Lucky stick. And then we scored after that, so it was kind of lucky shift. Sometimes it happens in hockey."

"We are more lucky that the bounces are going our way than in other games," Tomas Fleischmann added. "That's the only difference."

So how do you prepare for Game 4 in a world ruled by luck?

"We've got to work hard same way," Fleischmann said, "and hope for the bounces to come up the same way."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 20, 2009; 11:24 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: Simeon Varlamov's Big Night


to be fair, ovie and backstrom have been doing that little hip bump after wins for most of the season. it's not a new thing.

Posted by: sirbobalew | April 20, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I've seen them do the jump and bump thing many times this season.

Posted by: TheFingerman | April 20, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Guys, you get the luck and bounces go your way because you WORKED HARD. Real simple concept. When you deserve to win, the breaks go your way.

Even if the rangers had no business winning game 1, it eventually will even out so keep WORKING HARD and more luck will probably come your way.

Posted by: O-V-P | April 21, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

What do people who throw coins and trash on the ice know about sportsmanship?? Ovie and Backstrom do that after *every* win.

Posted by: amberlynne | April 21, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse

They've been doing this for forever, the rags fans are just, well on their rag or something.

Posted by: Ovechwin | April 21, 2009 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Great game by the Cap's. All the home team "Nah sayers" need to relax and let this series play out, we'll be fine. Regarding Avery, its time to go Slap-Shot" on that monkey. Plant his ass into the boards, the 5mn Major would be worth it. The guy is a clown. Be aggressive, be a gnat; thats fine. But all the sucker crap that he puts out reminds me of Samuelsson's punk dirty ass and what he did to us years ago.

Cap's '09!

Posted by: airforcegymrat | April 21, 2009 3:35 AM | Report abuse

yeah no story here, they've been doing that all season

Posted by: SombreroGuy | April 21, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I didn't see that as the NYR fans cheering Avery as he left -- they were cheering the fact that he was leaving. Believe it or not, sometimes even NY fans know when to stop being annoying.

Posted by: FOHS_Marc | April 21, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, @FOHS, from what people had been shouting all night it seemed they thought Avery was being unfairly targeted. There was an "A-Ve-Ry" chant at one point. Maybe I misinterpreted the ovation, but I don't think so.

As for the celebration....I told some other reporters what Backstrom had said, but at least a few seemed skeptical. One reporter said he was at the Garden for a previous Caps win this year and didn't see it. Not a big deal either way, but a funny end to the night.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | April 21, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Ranger fans are just as scummy (throwing trash on the ice etc...) as Avery. They play in a dung hole -- usually smells like one too -- and they support their near cross dresser when he throws tantrums to try to get under everyone's skin. Though I always suspected Avery was a little light in the loafers (maybe he's had too many sloppy seconds since he seems so well versed in such things) even for him 18 minutes in penalties -- four minors and a game misconduct -- should result in at least a day's suspension.

Posted by: randy_boyd | April 21, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

@Dan -- I can only hope you're right. If Rangers fans think that's hockey worth cheering, maybe Avery will keep it up.

Posted by: FOHS_Marc | April 21, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

The Ovie/Backstrom Bump-Jump has been going on since...gads I can't remember when they started that. After every win...

It's one of probably dozens of superstitions that go on with the Caps (and every one of the other 29 teams have them as well...)

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | April 21, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Surprised there were Rangers fans still left in the building to witness the "celebration." It looked like the place really started to empty out when there were still 5 minutes left in the game.

I had to laugh when they were cheering Avery - do they not get his antics helped cost them the game? I love it though, hope to see more of the same tomorrow night. They can throw as much crap as they want on the ice. Stay classy, NYC!

Posted by: CapsChick | April 21, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. If the Caps keep playing like they did last night, they'll get all the luck they need.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | April 21, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Ranger fans are just as scummy (throwing trash on the ice etc...) as Avery.

Posted by: randy_boyd | April 21, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Um, last year's Game 7 vs. Philly?

Posted by: Section117 | April 21, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

that picture is so photoshopped!

Posted by: pierrelebard | April 21, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Erskine showed admirable restraint in not KILLING Avery for his glove punch. Although, I thought he would choke Avery after he slapped at Varly. Seriously, i would love to see Erskine or Brash just pummel that guy.

Posted by: doughless | April 21, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: rockthered21 | April 21, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

This whole use of the word "luck" bothers me to no end. There was no luck involved in any of these incidents. The puck went where the player sent it - period. No outside force intervened to create a "lucky" situation. Callahan fired a shot that hit the post - happens all the time. The Caps then used all their talent and skill to skate down and score.
Repeat after me - there was no luck involved here. Sure, some situations in sport are less likely than others but that does not mean that luck was involved. I will never understand why athletes who train their whole lives would simply say they were lucky to score a goal or make a shot when it was their skill and their skill alone that impacted the event.
Now there are times when outside forces (physical forces) impact a sporting event and in those cases the athletes and teams were lucky but those are much more rare than you would be led to believe.
I will give you two examples from basketball -
1. A player makes a shot from 3/4 court at the end of the half. That is not a lucky shot. The shot's result follows completely from the player's skill. It is "unlikely" but not lucky.
2. Player takes a shot, misses, the opposing team fights for a rebound and the ball gets knocked in. Now, that's "lucky"! His skill and effort ended in a missed shot, outside forces intervened, and the ball went in.
Everybody got that. Good. Now stop using the term "lucky" all the time!

Posted by: agrawog | April 21, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game, they were cheering FOR Avery when he left the ice, not AGAINST Avery.

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | April 21, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Indeed, the Rags fans were cheering for Avery and booing the officials. The only fans not cheering Avery were either Caps fans or Rags fans that were too busy throwing blue lights from the stupidest promotion in playoff history on the ice.

Posted by: HeShootsHeScores | April 21, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Dan Steinberg approached me during the game yesterday and said "..did you just get pelted with popcorn?" I laughed and said yes- I was proudly wearing my Caps jersey as we were s--tstomping the Ramgers so, yeah- fans were getting grumpy. My only (minor) issue with Dan is that, in this blog, the incident is treated like "How could they? They just threw popcorn at that poor wheelchair guy!" When you live post-car accident in a wheelchair, you get a little too much pity. You get tired of it. Yes I'm in a wheelchair, but I'm 6'1, 190. I'm no poor thing that needs to be shielded from popcorn.
That aside, Steinberg is really nice and I told him how much we appreciate he and Tarik's blogs.


Posted by: Soco94 | April 21, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey @Soco, you're right to take issue with that. I realized later that it was a stupid thing to post. The wheelchair part, I mean. Shoot me an e-mail if you have a second.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | April 21, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

It's all good, Dan- you are a member of the Caps family and get a free pass this time. Maybe. :)

Posted by: Soco94 | April 21, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

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