Cory Stillman on Alex Ovechkin
As with every NHL team over the next day or two, members of the Florida Panthers were asked about Alex Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell from Sunday. The Panthers, though, happen to play the Caps on Tuesday night, and I happen to be in Sunrise, so I got to hear veteran winger Cory Stillman's take. Stillman has played most of his post-lockout career in the Southeast Division, and thus has seen Ovechkin plenty of times. And his analysis mixed both the good and the bad.
"You know what, he plays hard," Stillman said, when asked if Ovechkin's style is different this season. "Has it changed? Maybe as players you think he gets away with a little bit more. You know, he has stuck his knee out on Tim Gleason, and they've been easy on him. On one side he plays hard, he takes hits, and on [the other] side a lot of guys would love to run him over, it's just it's hard to do. He's so strong, he's so fast, and if someone gets a chance they're gonna run at him too, but he usually has his head up on that...."
"He's trying to be the difference in the game, he wants to be the star, and he's gonna do whatever he can, whether it's hitting or scoring. You look at his stats, you look at his hits, his shots, everything, he's doing that."
I asked what Stillman meant by saying Ovechkin gets away with more.
"Sometimes it seems like he runs, you know?" Stillman said. "But he's a big guy, he's moving all the time and he plays the same way night in night out. Obviously sometimes you want to question, you question a lot of hits on guys, with the Gleason [hit and] incidents like that. He doesn't mean to do it, it's just his reaction. He plays hard. You know what, he's coming out and he is the star of the game.
He plays hard, and if you have a young kid growing up who wants to be a hockey player, you want him to be Alex Ovechkin: you know, compete, hit, skate. Besides the North American style of fighting, which he doesn't have to do, he's the whole package. He does it."
I asked if he'd want his son to play like Ovechkin.
"Yeah, you do," Stillman said. "He scores goals, he makes plays, he's exciting to watch, he's got a smile on his face, he's excited when his teammates score, and that's being the whole package of a hockey player."
And I asked if he'd like to see Ovechkin take some of the questionable hits out of his game.
"You know what, you cut that out of the game, it changes his game," Stillman said. "You tell a guy who's a checker not to run around, not to hit, they're not gonna be in the league long. If you tell him he can't do that, does he score? Is he as intense? Maybe he's not. He's got one game, and if you check the 61 games, he plays the same way every night."
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