Hey, this kid Ovechkin is all right
Well, the first shoe dropped before the trade deadline with Dwayne Roloson going to the Edmonton Oilers, and there will be quite a few more moves made before it's all said and done. But, off the top, Edmonton solved a lot of its drastic problems in goal without hurting the team. I think it was a good move. More will come.
Which brings us to Alexander Ovechkin. The guy's on a tear; he has scored in six straight games, with four goals in the last three games. He's an unbelievable talent. And he's doing it on his own -- last time I looked, he was 43 points up on the next guy on the Caps, Dainius Zubrus, so it's not as though he's doing it surrounded by a star-studded lineup or anything. I'm more and more impressed each time I see this kid play.
He's for real. He's not only going to be rookie of the year but could outright win the goal-scoring race, which -- for a 20-year-old -- is unbelievable. Sure, the new rules have made it easier to score, but this guy's great. Not only is he doing it, he's doing it against everybody. It's the way he's doing it, how he's doing it, where he's doing it.
The other good thing this week has been the Montreal Canadiens. Coming back from the Olympics, people thought they'd fall like a stone. But they're the best team in the NHL since the break, and they're doing it on the road -- they're 3-1-1 on this current road trip. Netminder Cristobal Huet is a great story -- the only French-born player in the NHL, and he's playing great. When Jose Theodore got hurt, everybody thought that would be it for the Canadiens, but the kid is giving them a chance to win every night. They're only three points behind Tampa Bay in the East, and look out -- Tampa Bay is falling, and Montreal is climbing.
Tampa Bay is in my bad books this week. This team has so much talent, and that's why the Bolts won the Stanley Cup the last time it was played for. Everybody's waiting for them to play the way they can, but they have one shootout win in their first four games since the end of the break. Tampa Bay certainly has been a major disappointment. The Lightning aren't fighting for first overall, they're fighting for eighth in the East.
The reason? It's hard to get teams to play that hard two years in a row. And the goaltending hasn't been there, with Johnny Grahame replacing Nikolai Khabibulin. It just goes to show that you can't win in this league unless you get great goaltending, not even if you are the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning.
Another bad has been the play of the San Jose Sharks. We all thought that once they got close to playoffs, they'd continue to march right in. But now they've stumbled and fallen, losing three straight games, and they're eight points out of a playoff spot -- that's four wins!
The Sharks are a lot like the Lightning in that they have so much talent but they're not getting it done. They have Joe Thornton, and Jonathan Cheechoo has been on fire lately. They just haven't been able to put it together. As I said, we're heading toward the playoffs, so now is the time to play your best hockey, and San Jose hasn't been able to do that.
The ugly to me this week was the Hurricanes' Erik Cole getting hurt. This is a guy who has turned into one of the best forwards in the NHL. He had a great Olympics and was emerging as a great, great player. He could have had career-best numbers this year, and he really could've helped Carolina. For Cole, it's such a downer because he was having such a great season and was emerging as a star.
A lot of people have criticized Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik for what they said was a dirty hit, but I didn't think it was a dirty hit. I thought it was a dangerous hit, with Cole going toward the boards. It was a hit from behind and certainly should have been a penalty, but I disagree that Orpik was trying to hurt Cole. Orpik's a physical player, and he wasn't trying to hurt him.
Also ugly this week were injuries in general. Vancouver has been decimated by injuries to its three best defensemen; Dominik Hasek's out; the list goes on and on. I said before that the Olympics were going to determine a lot. We're seeing that now, and it's certainly ugly. Players aren't with their teams when their teams need them the most.
Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.
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