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NHL Report

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

ENOUGH ABOUT CELEBRATIONS

Alex Ovechkin staged a planned goal celebration last week, and the hockey community paused for everyone to a) rejoice about the infusion of creativity and showmanship for a sport that sorely misses it or b) renounce his diabolically selfish and anti-establishment behavior.

Nobody seemed to care that Ovechkin just accomplished something that only two other players in NHL history have - score 50 goals at least three times in his first four seasons in the league - because they were too busy using his "my stick is too hot to touch" routine as an opportunity to dust off the soapbox.

The truth is Ovechkin's antics weren't that big of a deal. Did he cross some imaginary line in hockey ethics because it was premeditated? Maybe. Is one moment of excess for a special occasion acceptable from a player who puts people in the seats because of his enthusiasm? Probably.

But was it really worth the excess of attention it received? Almost certainly not. Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning threatened retribution, but what did they do in the final 52 minutes of the game? Lightning goalie Steve McKenna said he could have "done a spin move" when he stopped Ovechkin on a breakaway. McKenna also could have not given up four more goals in another lopsided loss to Washington.

Maybe everyone is running out of material as the postseason approaches, but it is hard not to feel like Ovechkin's actions were just another overblown issue for people to take a side about and opine. There is plenty to write about with Ovechkin these days. Is he still a lock for his second straight MVP? Why does he seem allergic to backchecking beyond the red line on some shifts? But enough scrutinizing his celebrations - the sport will be able to move forward regardless of what he chooses to do in the future.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Montreal Canadiens

Let's see - there is a team in Eastern Canada that is crashing to the finish line as a season that began with much promise has been derailed by poor goaltending and off-ice shenanigans. Montreal Canadiens, meet last season's Ottawa Senators.

Much like their rivals did a year ago, the Canadiens are unraveling. Wunderkind goalie Carey Price looks more like the second coming of Jim Carey than Patrick Roy these days. Half of the forwards on the roster have not met expectations. Distractions have been plentiful, from compromising photos to associations with mobsters, from half the roster looking ahead to free agency to failed relations with a well-respected coach.

This season has become a train wreck for the proudest franchise in the sport, and a five-game losing streak in the middle of a "playoff push" isn't helping. It is a good thing this wasn't supposed to be a special year with the team's 100th anniversary to celebrate or anything.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 1)

The Winged Wheel is rounding into form for another Cup run.

2. New Jersey Devils (3)

Could gain No. 1 seed but in midst of tough stretch.

3. San Jose Sharks (2)

Three-game homestand was a nice remedy for struggles.

4. Boston Bruins (4)

Big win against Devils - the Bruins are being undervalued of late.

5. Washington Capitals (5)

When will the dominant team from winter return?

6. Philadelphia Flyers (7)

Proved they're still the favorites in a Keystone State matchup.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (8)

Caps fans should delight in a Penguins-Flyers death match.

8. Calgary Flames (9)

Jerome Iginla out of Hart discussion, but he could be a Conn Smythe dark horse.

9. Vancouver Canucks (10)

Do Detroit or San Jose really want to face the surging Canucks?

10. Carolina Hurricanes (NR)

Is Paul Maurice going to get any credit for turning this team around?

TROPHY TRACKER

CALDER (rookie)

1. Steve Mason, Blue Jackets

Has his team in solid position to make the playoffs for the first time.

2. Pekka Rinne, Predators

Continues to have nearly identical numbers to Mason except for wins.

3. Bobby Ryan, Ducks

A bright spot for a team that is fading from the postseason picture.

NORRIS (defenseman)

1. Zdeno Chara, Bruins

Remains the top two-way defenseman in the league.

2. Mike Green, Capitals

Those offensive numbers are impossible to ignore.

3. Shea Webber, Predators

Like Green, evolving into a contender for years to come.

VEZINA (goalie)

1. Steve Mason, Blue Jackets

Columbus' late-season push has him back atop the list.

2. Tim Thomas, Bruins

Boston's late-season stumbles are not helping his cause.

3. Niklas Backstrom, Wild

Minnesota needs to make the playoffs for him to have a chance.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

NOW SHOWING

Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have struggled a bit in recent weeks after ascending to the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference, and not having Sharp in the lineup may have a lot to do with that. Sharp scored a pair of goals in his return from a knee injury Sunday. He adds a much-needed boost of scoring depth and could help make the young Blackhawks dangerous in the postseason.

COMING SOON

Jordan Eberle, Oilers

Eberle was a first-round pick in June by Edmonton who had a nice season in the Western Hockey League. Oh, and he scored what will become one of the most famous goals in his country's history when he sent the Canada-Russia semifinal at the world junior championships into overtime with less than six seconds left. No pressure or new expectations to live up to now, though.

SHOW'S OVER

Brad Richards, Stars

Richards returned early from a broken wrist to attempt to lead his team into the playoffs... and proceeded to break a bone in his other hand in his first game back. If the teetering Stars weren't a long shot to make the postseason, losing Richards (again) should be the final blow in a roller-coaster season in Dallas.