North of the 400

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Ovechkins celebrations a cause better left alone

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Last night in Toronto, Capitals sniper Alexander Ovechkin wore a Coach’s Corner T-shirt while warming up before the game. On the back was written “RESPECT”.

For those not in the loop, that is Don Cherry’s CBC segment. The segment where Cherry has blasted Ovechkin this season for his goal celebrations.

It was a sign that Ovechkin is ready to move on from the micro-controversy that has been clouding over him since a fateful game against Tampa Bay when he scored his 50th goal of the season. After hitting on a wrist shot, taken just inside the blue line to the left of Lightening goalie Mike McKenna, Ovechkin dropped his stick and pantomimed that he couldn’t pick it up, it was too hot.

On the scale of celebrations, it was far from the worst. It was Terrell Owens running to midfield after scoring a touchdown against Dallas. There was no disrespect, no taunting. Ovechkin was having a lark, like he does with most of his goals. One remembers him running on the ice or jumping into the boards after big goals. He is not one to simply smile and raise a hand when he scores. Rather, he wears his emotion on his sleeve.

And this wears on some people’s patience.

Don Cherry is one. He disagrees with what Ovechkin does and compares it to Jerome Iginla, who rarely does anything much after scoring. If Ovechkin is excitable, Iginla is workmanlike in his poise. After scoring his 50th last season against Vancouver, he put his stick up in the air and hugged a couple players.

Cherry makes a few points. By celebrating so much, he opens himself up to criticism. A parallel to baseball, as poised by Cherry, is fitting: if you stare too long at a home run, you’re likely to get thrown at. That happens. In hockey, Ovechkin may find that he’s getting a few more elbows thrown his way and that referees might decide to let them play.

Cherry keeps at it, though. “They’re laughing at you, Alex” he opined this past weekend. He found the stick-play more then harmless. A taunt. Rubbing it in. Think of the poor Lightening, all the way down in the standings.

Here he oversteps, and not just because Ovechkin is has 50 goals because he’s on a good Capitals team — if anything, the Capitals are a good team because Ovechkin has 50 goals. He reads too far into Ovechkins actions and leads one to wonder if in Cherry’s ideal world, there would have be no celebrations and pitchers can throw at hockey forwards.

Unaddressed by Cherry was Cliff Ronning in the 1991 Smythe finals, Theo Fleury in the 91 Smythe semi-finals or Teemu Selanne setting the goal record for a rookie.

One wonders if the shirt will be addressed on Saturday by Cherry. It’s a show of respect, yes, but the shirt means something else too: he’s tired of talking about it.

What’s a better sign then what Ovechkin did last night after scoring his 51st against the Maple Leafs? After crossing in front of Leafs goalie Martin Gerber, he pulled the puck in, waited for Gerber to bite and backhanded the puck past him.

And then he hugged some teammates with what looked to me like a hand pointing up to the press box.

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Written by M.

March 25, 2009 at 4:02 pm

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