Friday, March 14, 2008

Alexander versus Ilya

Alexander Ovechkin is now only four goals away from being the first player to eclipse the 60 goal mark since Mario Lemieux scored 69 more than a decade ago. In fact, tonight's game between the Washington Capitals and the Atlanta Thrashers features two of the most dangerous, young goal scorers in the league with Ilya Kovalchuk on one side and Alexander The Great on the other. Kovalchuk is only two goals away from 50, which would be the second time he's hit that plateau in his 6 year career. Ovechkin, on the other hand, had 52 two years ago in his rookie campaign where he secured the Calder Trophy and narrowly missed the 50 goal mark last year with 46. However, However, it's important to point out that Kovalchuk has always been surrounded by other scorers and elite players such as Marian Hossa and Marc Savard while Ovechkin has had to learn to create his own offense. That was, of course, until this year where the talent level of the Caps has elevated them into a position where they are genuinely competing for a playoff spot. Kovalchuk has also never finished a season with anything but a negative plus/minus rating with his worst coming in 02-03 where he had a -24. Ovechkin, on the other hand, was the member of a dreadful team up until this year and was still a +2 in his rookie season. Of course, he had a dreadful -19 last year but the team's turnaround has elevated him to a career best +16 this year. Overall, there is no better pure goal scorer in the league and, in my opinion, no more dominant offensive player than Ovie.

The debate rages on regarding who the better player is between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin just as it still does between Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. For the former debate, I actually think it depends on what you need for your team. I like that Ovechkin can play a physical style and can take over a game all by himself. The argument that he doesn't make his teammates better doesn't really hold water with me. The defense has to pay so much attention to him when he's on the ice that it creates space and Alexander is one of the most underrated passers in the league. Of course, no one can touch Crosby's vision and passing ability but Crosby has an underrated shot and would score a lot more goals if he were to change his mentality a bit. You can't go wrong with either, but I'd love to see what happens when Ovechkin ends up surrounded by the same level of talent with which Crosby has been blessed. Overall, I'd take Crosby simply because we know what he can do but I think Ovechkin may ultimately have more career points that Sid The kid.

Oh, and for that latter debate regarding Lemieux and The Great One. I'd take Lemieux and I truly believe that had Mario stayed healthy and played the same number of games as Gretz at the same level of health, the numbers would be considerably different.

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