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.
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