The Washington Times - March 19, 2013, 10:58AM

It wasn’t long after an onslaught of criticism for Alex Ovechkin by Mike Milbury, Jeremy Roenick, Pierre McGuire and P.J. Stock that Sirius-XM NHL Network analyst Jim “Boomer” Gordon made an astute comparison. When Puck the Media’s Steve Lepore asked if there was any athlete in another sport who gets as abused as Ovechkin, Gordon mentioned Alex Rodriguez.

Gordon called Ovechkin the “A-Rod of the NHL.”

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“Once you become a punching bag, you have no shot,” he said.

Ovechkin does seem to take a lot of outside hits, some fair some unwarranted.

“I don’t want to compare me and Rodriguez,” he said. “But if I do something wrong of course I’m going to be [talked about] if I do something bad. If I do something good they still will talk about me. It’s kind of position what I’m in.”

As Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby said of Ovechkin earlier this season, “there’s always expectations, there’s a lot of eyes on him.”

Because he’s the Great 8, because along with all the great things that come with being a pro athlete is he has to endure and manage the criticism that will always and forever come his way,” former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward said.

Ward said “you can’t win in pro sports” because so much attention is paid to stars. That’s something that appears true with Ovechkin, criticized for not being able to win in the playoffs when he was putting up big numbers and now for less-impressive statistics.

“I think he’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t,” ex-NHL executive and NHL Network analyst Craig Button said. At the end of the day, I heard comments about Mario Lemieux, one of the greatest players that ever played the game, I heard comments about him. Living in Detroit, I’ve lived there for 12 years, I heard comments about Steve Yzerman. We’re talking about one of the greatest players of all-time, one of the greatest leaders of all-time.

“If it can be said about guys like that, I guess nobody’s immune. I guess we can sit here and decide if it’s fair or unfair. I think people make up their own minds and do their own thing.”

Ovechkin isn’t the same dominant player he once was, now amid a career transformation with coach Adam Oates.

“Everybody in this world loves to see the greats fall quickly,” former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward said. “And they’re quick to pile on. But look at Crosby; the moment Crosby’s not producing after two games everybody’s like where’s Crosby gone. And that’s the same for Ovechkin.”

Ward didn’t by the A-Rod comparison, instead pointing to the NBA for an example.

“I compare Ovechkin to the Miami Heat. No matter what, until you get it all done and it all has to come together, there’s going to be criticism,” Ward said. “You have a collection of the best players together and until they win, it’s never going to be good enough.”

Ovechkin might not be Rodriguez (perhaps A-Rod before winning the 2009 World Series with the New York Yankees) and might not be LeBron James. But he is a popular punching bag.

“Most important thing for me if my teammates, my coaches and my fans love me,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t care if somebody don’t like me and gonna say some bad things about me.”