Friday, April 11, 2008

The most electrifying man in sports entertainment

How excited am I about Alexander Ovechkin's playoff debut tonight?
I've seen almost every minute of every Caps game since Ovechkin signed his 13 year, $124 million extension January 10. Watched Ovechkin lead the league in:

Goals (65; 20%, or 13 goals, more than 2nd place).

Points (112).

Game-winning goals (11).

Power-play goals (22).

Even-strength goals (41).

Lead-changing goals (30).

Multi-goal games (13).

4-goal games (2).

Points in the last month of the season (31).

"Late-game pressure goals" (29) (defined by the league as overtime or third period goals when the score differential is 2 or less goals).

Late-game pressure points (44).

Game-winning goals in the third period (5).

Third period goals (26).

First period goals (17).

Shots (441).

And there's more statistical goodness: 11th in the league in hits, ninth in takeaways, 7th in plus/minus, the third most goals in his first three years in the league (behind Gretzky and Bossy), the third highest adjusted goal total in NHL history, and more ten or shot games since he entered the league than the next four players on the list combined. But with Ovechkin, you can't just rely on the stats. Because when you go to the video tape, you realize he transcends statistics.

He scores, he hits, and he gets the fans involved. I cannot fathom someone liking hockey and not buying what Ovechkin is selling.

The difference between the level of regular season and postseason play is greater than that of every other sport, so the dominant storyline of the second half of the NHL season is whether or not fans would get a chance to see Ovechkin in the playoffs. To what level can he take his play, and how elaborate will his celebrations be when he scores? I'm excited to find out.

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