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Mike Milbury's defense of Alex Ovechkin

The oddest part of Sunday's Ovechkin-related excitement in Chicago was undoubtedly this: Mike Milbury offering an intermission defense of Alex Ovechkin, and confused Caps fans confusingly admitting that they actually agreed with Milbury.

From the sound of it, Milbury was getting ready to sound off over the rampant confusion on what is and isn't a suspendable offense even before Ovechkin's first-period ejection, and so the game misconduct sort of fit into his larger narrative of a game in crisis. The Ovechkin incident would seem to be in a different category than the much-publicized debate over head shots, but it's all part of dissatisfaction with officiating and crime and punishment, and so here we go.

"So much for the ratings this week, on a push behind the net for crying out loud," Milbury said. "C'mon, ok, give him two minutes. There's so much uncertainty after this Cooke hit on Marc Savard in Pittsburgh-Boston last Sunday that nobody knows what's a penalty and what's not a penalty. They've got to get to the bottom of this....They've got to get this done right away, because they're gonna screw this thing up."

"That was an overreaction I thought by the on-ice officials," Pierre McGuire agreed, concerning the Ovechkin hit. "At best it's a double minor, not a game misconduct."

"We're trying to soften the game a little, we don't want to see these major hits...." Milbury continued. "We can't find ways to keep on softening the game without keeping physicality in it, but right now, nobody knows what's a penalty and what's not a penalty....Get this thing over with and in a hurry. Pretty soon it's gonna be squash anyway. We've got to get it right so these guys know what's in the rulebook and what's not in the rulebook, what's a penalty and what's not."

And so here are my three takeaways from Sunday's incident.

1) Both locally and nationally, the 20-some players on the Caps not named Alex Ovechkin continue to be horribly under-appreciated. Any implication that the Caps were toast after Ovechkin got tossed was ridiculous at the time, and indeed, without the two-time league MVP, the Caps rallied from three down, on the road, against one of the league's best teams.

I go in for the Ovi obsession as much as anybody, and his name draws eyeballs and Web clicks, but with or without Ovechkin, this is a damn fine team.

2) There's a reason Rasheed Wallace has long had a shorter string than anybody in the NBA. Baggage has a way of sticking around. Deserved or not, it's just not a great idea to put that little bug in the back of an official's mind about prior incidents, and this now becomes "an incident," no matter what you think of the play. I think Ovechkin would be wise to attempt to wipe away this perception of his reckless play by laying low for a while. Like, five years or so.

3) Wait, Mike Milbury completely whiffed on a gimme chance to rip Ovechkin? That's gonna make the bias accusations a little harder to defend this spring.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 14, 2010; 9:28 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Milbury was correct in his statements today, but he still gets no love here. I would rather listen to Celine Dion's greatest hits CD than listen to Milbury bash the best player and team in the NHL. LET'S GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: TheJerkStore | March 14, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

The only thing stronger than Milbury's anti-DC bias is his outrage over attempts to soften up the game.

Don Cherry occasionally supports Ovie too...

Posted by: Joran | March 14, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Lay low for a while? Ovi had three minors in the last 23 games and no penalties on hits in 25 games.

Posted by: goskins1982 | March 14, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Milbury was caught between a rock and a hard place! It was a terrible call, and he had a bone to pick concerning officiating and penalties, so he couldn't be anti Ovechkin AND against what has become the norm for officiating. He's probably tickled pink that he made Caps fans agree with him. It hurt my head, that's for sure. But in this case, he was correct on the issue, though his talking points are pretty poor. The two ref system is not preventing more dangerous plays or reducing the amount of penalties. We don't need two, one was fine. Its not a matter of taking away the physical nature of the game, but accurately assessing what a penalty should be. Too often, the refs have differing opinions of the same play, where the stripe at the foot of the play doesn't call a penalty but the referee farthest away does. Sometimes you can't help but think they're just making it up as they go. If head shots are a problem, then right now, no excuses, make a rule: no head shots, effective immediately. Boom. Done. Who's going to argue with that? To suspend Ovechkins shove, just as much a result of a bad fall because of Campbells skate, but be hand-tied into not suspending Cooke after ending a players season with a dirty head shot, makes the league and sport look chaotic, poorly run, and out of control. Not a good marketing strategy.
Milbury is correct, it needs to be fixed. Funny that Ovechkin became his poster boy.

Posted by: oo7 | March 15, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse


He needs at least a year before any more incidents happen.

I don't think he's a dirty player but he's so big and massive that he's a bull in a China shop. A normal hit by him causes greater than normal damage as a result.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 15, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Milbury didn't know what to do. There was nobody named Sidney wearing yellow and black on the other team.

Posted by: Rainier1 | March 15, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Where is Mike Milsbury and what have you done with him? This is becoming a disturbing trend. First "Mad Mike" claims he would take Ovechkin over Crosby during the Olympics if he was starting a team and now this. The only thing I can think of that has caused this titanic shift is that the player Milsbury despises the most in the history of hockey is Jagr. After watching Ovie destroy him in the olympics I guess he found a warm spot in Mad Mikes cold heart. I liked it better when Mike hated on the Caps. It was way more fun. Then again, he didn't list Mike Green as one of his top "rushing" defensemen yesterday so maybe all is not lost.

Posted by: jimc93 | March 15, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

HAHAHAHA - these posts are great. It's always fun to watch Mike Milbury have a catharsis on national television. He made the right decision to criticize the call but it must have been killing him to be seen as "siding with Ovie".

Reminds me of the Don Cherry insanity when Don (of all people) criticizes Ovie for being flamboyant. Hey Don, anyone who wears a Times Square billboard for a suit has no business calling anyone else flamboyant.

I hope the rest of the league continues to think this team is toast without Ovie. Keep thinking it and then POW! 4 unanswered goals - 2 by World Class center Nikky Backstrom.

Posted by: david_P | March 15, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

NHL network said Campbell has broken clavicle and rib. Not helpful. Seems like the main indictment going forward was that Campbell was "vulnerable". What does the rulebook say about "vulnerable".

I think Ovi is getting an undeserved rep.

Posted by: rjma1 | March 15, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

The injury to Campbell was caused by his hitting a rough patch in the ice, and not by the push from Ovi. Would he have hit that rough patch anyway? No way of knowing. But Ovi's going to be the scapegoat for the crappy ice, anyway.

Posted by: OvechkinFan92801 | March 15, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I thought Millbury's comments were strange. At one point he said "green, as in go, as in good-bye Ovechkin!" And then they went to commercial break. When they returned, it seemed like Millbury did a 180 and was defending Ovechkin. Do you think an NBC producer got in his ear and told him to support Ovie for the sake of ratings? Did anyone else notice how it seemed like Millbury wanted to rip Ovechkin before the commercial break?

Posted by: padre123 | March 15, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't always agree with Don Cherry but this time he is right on the mark. Let's see if the NHL has the guts to suspend Ovechkin for at least the remainder of the year. It should have nothing to do with the fact that he is a good player so do the right thing NHL and suspend him for the remainder of the year or it really will be open season on players. I'm sure even the NHL Players Association would agree with such a suspension.
On a lighter note Cherry's idea about a "safe zone" around the outside of the players bench is a very good idea when players are making changes and the NHL should adopt that one too, but knowing the NHL they never take advice from Cherry even when he is right. He's also correct about the "no-touch" icing issue which should have been put in years ago before someone actually dies racing for the puck.

Daniel ..... Toronto

Posted by: dandmb50 | March 15, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Milbury is a jerk....and always will be.

Posted by: Two4Roughing | March 15, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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