I really want to like this guy...
Seriously, I do. He is without a doubt the most exciting player to watch in the NHL. He is so aggressive with the puck and his shot is second to none. He is the best goal scorer we have seen over the past decade in this league, but he has several qualities that I cannot overlook.
How can you be considered the best player in hockey when you do not contribute on the defensive end? When I watch the games on TV he seems to vanish when the puck is inside his blue line. But when the Caps have the puck, he is buzzing all over the ice.
Game 4 I got the chance to watch him live, and I was stunned at what he actually does.
When the puck would go into his blue line, he usually stopped and waited outside of the zone. He never got into the corners for a puck, never got into a solid defensive position, and basically waited until he got an outlet pass. The only time he would enter the zone was to take a run at someone.
I'm sorry, but that is not what playoff hockey is about. If you want to do that in the regular season, go ahead, but in a situation where every shift matters, he took a few off. I don't see guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk doing that, and maybe that is what sets them apart from other players.
What really bothers me is that he has all the physical tools to win a Selke trophy. He's faster and stronger then most of the players out there, but he lacks the one thing that all great two-way players have. Heart. The top two-way players WANT to be great defensively. They exert a ton of effort on every shift so that the puck stays out of their net.
As a Pens fan, I saw the two-way clinic that is the Red Wings. They hold themselves to a high standard defensively, and it starts with guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Hossa. If your top forwards are selling out inside their blueline, then the rest of your team will follow suit. And at the end of the day, THAT is how you win a cup.
Crosby took last year's lesson to heart and we are seeing it now. When the face of your franchise blocks a shot with his chest and takes a high stick while battling in the corner, your players are going to respond. That is why he is moving on and Ovechkin is now at home.
Can he change? Of course. Will he? That depends on how bad he wants to win. You can have all of the Art Ross and Hart trophys you want, but if you are not going to work in your end you will be on your couch watching the finals.