Leave Alex Ovechkin Alone!

Scott Levy

Photo credit: Scott Levy

Okay, the subject line is a joke, but some people are being silly about Derek Stepan‘s game-winning goal last night. They’re saying it was Alex Ovechkin‘s fault– that his laziness on defense is a problem.

Here’s how it really went down.

After a long shift in the defensive zone, Marcus Johansson failed to clear the zone and pass to Alex Ovechkin, who was skating toward Lundqvist at center ice. A scramble for the puck ensued, and Stepan scored from the weak side. Ovechkin skated lazily towards Stepan as it happened.

Bad visual, but that’s all.

Deadspin’s headline for the play is Alexander Ovechkin Would Prefer Not To Play Defense because it fits cozily into a pernicious media narrative, but it’s not actually true. Recall if you will minutes earlier that same game when Ovechkin’s defensive backcheck was so enthusiastic it turns Martin Erat’s wrist into kindling.

Here’s the very first frame of the video of the play:

firstframe

Ovechkin is hauling ass away from the play because he’s expecting a breakout pass so that he can enter the offensive zone on a rail and score the game-tying goal. He’s expecting competence from his linemates, which was the real tragic error here– not some dubious distaste for defense.

But that doesn’t stop media folks from using this an opportunity to lambast Alex Ovechkin for the same old thing. Media is a business– I get that, but let’s be honest: those writers and pundits are serving an agenda, not informing their audience.

  • Rob

    Best analysis I’ve seen yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caponslugger Adam Schwager

    They don’t know themselves. Probably same people who asked Torts if he wanted to take traffic out of the goal after game one.

  • http://twitter.com/Over_head Rob

    Sorry guys, they are right on this one. Unless one believes gliding back straight legged with one hand on his stick is the proper way to play defense as a wing in the NHL. He was “hauling ass” out of the zone when it looked as if his team had possession of the puck, why did he not “haul ass” back into the zone when he saw possession was lost? Was the goal his fault? No, Marcus made a weak play along the boards, that was the main issue. But that does not excuse a lack of effort to get back and help out. He glided with one hand on his stick, had he busted ass back he may have been in position to pick up the open player in the slot. Just my opinion, but I think Ovi played like this too often last night, it seemed to start after the charging penalty.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Because he had just done a long shift, then a suicide sprint from the DZ’s circles to the OZ blueline, then back.

  • Nick Grgas

    I like him floating back into the zone (and picture) just as Step shoots the puck. haha

  • Mike

    Is this satire?

  • Slob

    This is ludicrous. He skated hard out of the zone, so let’s excuse him for not skating back into the zone. This is an unbelievably lazy play by Ovi. The reason this fits into the narrative is the same there’s a narrative in the first place. He has bouts of lazy and chooses to not try as hard on defense. He seemed to have correct it, but it came creeping back.

  • SC3

    You can type up excuses until you are blue in the face. But what is the excuse for not hustling or at least making an effort to back-check the open attacker on his side? You said it yourself “Ovechkin skated lazily towards Stepan as it happens.”

    MVP huh?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    He was hustling his ass off at the beginning of the video. That is the actual text of this article. Did you read it?

  • Kevin Jameson

    This is like one of those joke things, yes? Like in the Onion?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    There’s a really seductive tendency to look for evidence that supports your preconceived notion and ignore evidence that does not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.thurston.7 Kevin Thurston

    the fact is he was coasting even before the play in front of the net developed. if he keeps skating like a team captain who wants to make every possible play he can to win a playoff game, he has a chance to break up that play. your description of the context is accurate but irrelevant. ovechkin is a few strides away from potentially making a great defensive play, but he
    literally just watches it happen. ovechkin had the best seat in the house on that goal.

  • lsjacobs

    Simply put, Ovi’s play is indefensible. You can blame MoJo for not getting him the puck, but guess what, that happens in a hockey game. He still has to get back into the play defensively and doesn’t even stride to do so.

  • Russian Machine Broke

    If he’s too tired to be involved in the play in any way, shape, or form, he should have gotten off the ice. There’s literally no good reason for that posture, and he shouldn’t be literally GLIDING. Step away from the Kool-Aid–it was a terrible effort. Period.

  • SC3

    So if you skate real hard towards the offensive zone, it’s ok to glide back like a zombie to play defense if things don’t go as planned. Seems legit.

  • http://pucknhockey.com Eric Rigsby

    Tactically, you’re right. However, the lack of effort after he sees the play broken down and going the other way is disturbing.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    It’d be nice if Mojo could have gotten him the puck, but not clearing the zone at all is a MUCH bigger problem than the guy at the CLEAR other end of the nice not sprinting back in time to break it up.

  • OlietheGoalie

    As a long time player of the NHL series, I find this hilarious. It also caused me to spew water onto my work laptop.

    (Go Baltimore Bruised Bananas! In the top tier of the EASHL playoffs.)

  • Slob

    I understand that, and like I said he seems to have gotten more defensive minded in the past couple years. I don’t think he’s JUST an offensive player. And we can throw away the narrative and focus on just this play. It’s embarrassing.

  • http://twitter.com/Over_head Rob

    So he ran out of energy just when his team turned the puck over? I don’t know. You are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this, I am not.If MJ90 managed to get the puck to him at center ice do you think his energy would have returned or do you think he would have dumped it into the offensive zone and gone for a change?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    That’s so inane I’m not sure how to respond. You’re saying Ovi should have LEFT THE ICE? Are we supposed to keep reading your comment after that line?

  • MLB

    Just because he made a great backcheck earlier doesn’t excuse this play. He screwed up. The end.

  • Rob L

    It’s playoff hockey, dig deep. He’ll have plenty of time for rest in the off-season, and with defense like that, the rest will be sooner rather than later. I love Ovi…but this was a bad play.

  • eoslick

    The constant head hunting comments by the NBC crew is horrendous. In this case, they were right. OV needed to come back harder and didn’t.

  • Guest
  • SC3

    So he would have had enough energy to “enter the offensive zone on a rail and score the game-tying goal.” But was suddenly doggedly tired when it was time to come back and play defense for the team he captains.

    Nice try.

  • Colin

    He did not sprint back to the defensive zone. From the 0:25 mark of the video, you can see he takes 1 stride getting away from the NYR d-man, and 1-2 strides around the DZ blueline. The rest he glides. He also went right by his bench.

  • SportingParagon

    This is not at all on Ovechkin. Mojo was at fault for turning the puck over, and Backstrom was at fault for losing sight of his man, which sent Hillen scrambling on the give and go. It was a 3 on 4 in the defensive zone (in case clarification is needed, the Caps were the ones with 4), but really poor play by everyone not named Ovechkin (who was playing the two men on the point) to be unable to come away with the puck despite having the numbers advantage AND THEN losing track of two men down low.

    The fact that Ovechkin is the one getting lambasted for this is laughable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Photon.Nyan.Kat Kathleen Meredith
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Not tired… just really far away from the play. Jeez. Just read the damn thing.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    YES

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I didn’t even notice how Hillen tripped up Holtby.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.eklund Derek Eklund

    Confirmation bias is a bitch.

  • Colin

    In another post you said that he had just done a long shift then a suicide sprint to the OZ expecting a pass then back to the DZ. This implies you thought he was tired. You can’t argue in one post he’s tired and in another that he should stay on the ice. If a save was made or the shot flubbed, Ovi would not be able to help on a breakout play and would have taken a longer than usual time to get back to the bench.

  • Jimmy

    I have no preconceived notions about Alex Ovechkin at all. If he is already known as a player who either gives terrible effort or doesn’t play defense, I am completely unaware of it. In fact, I’m not even a hockey fan.

    That is one of the worst efforts I’ve ever seen, in any sport.

  • Capsstink

    And what if Stepan had fanned on his first attempt? What if the rebound came right back to him. Its a lazy play. He was in the Offensive zone he was in the neutral zone and he need to skate back…

  • Capsstink

    wasnt*

  • Ridiculous

    If you watch the youtube video, you can actually see Ovie stick come into the picture pretty early and hes gliding all the way from blue line..

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Totally don’t disagree at all. I just think we’re missing the point if we think this was on Ovi or that this is another example in a litany of Ovechkin’s awful defense.

    This was a failure to clear the zone after a lengthy D shift. I want more from Ovechkin, but it’s way too easy to say “this is all on Ovi” without actually thinking through how it happened.

  • Patrick Wixson

    Every excuse I’ve seen made by the writer in the article and comments is hilarious. I don’t think it’s fair to say AO doesn’t care about defense or isn’t necessarily a good defensive player but he obviously made a horrible play that he deserves to be called out on.

    I will not believe that he was too tired to take more than a single stride once in his zone and the fact that you repeatedly try to defense that must be embarrassing for you. HIs knees are straight, his legs aren’t moving, and he’s fully upright…that’s not the posture of someone playing hockey. #38 dives face first in front of the net to try to block the shot while AO the “captain” glides back like the whistle blew. It looks to me like he had already accepted the fact that a goal would be scored instead of trying to actually stop it..which he could have done!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’m saying he was far away from the play because he assumed his guys were gonna clear the zone.

    Please don’t confuse me defending Ovi from unfair attacks with me absolving him of blame. I said he was lazy in the original story. I’m just saying this wasn’t his fault primarily.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    A lot of comments seem to end in “the end” or “period.” I’m trying to illuminate the story, learn more about it, and then share what I’ve learned. Dig deeper, rather than just be callous and wave it away.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No.

    He was lazy, that was bad. That’s in the story above.

    But the failure to clear the zone is what made this a goal against, not Ovi waiting for a breakout.

  • GoCapsGo

    Ovie’s stick can be seen at 6 seconds entering the video. Stepan shoots at 8 seconds. I guarantee he wasn’t hustling back the few seconds before that to get into the defensive zone. Therefore its undoubtedly a lazy play and he did not skate back.

  • berger

    It takes Ovechkin 9, maybe 8 seconds to get from center ice to the face-off dot. Think about that.

  • Pingback: Ovechkin’s defense under the microscope…again | ProHockeyTalk

  • http://pucknhockey.com Eric Rigsby

    Looking at the numbers this morning, having the combination of Hillen-Oleksy and the Backstrom line on the ice against Cally and Stepan, was a poor match-up to begin with. Team defense is a key, right? I’m starting to think many of the problems last night were Torts vs. Oates.

  • Ryan Boushell

    I don’t see this as a lazy effort. I see it as Ovi turning around and saying “You have got to be effing kidding me.” Even a full burst of energy from him likely would not have prevented the goal. Bad optics, but I can’t blame him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.hoff Marc Hoff

    Agree, the goal-against is not Ovi’s fault. But … disagree, he SHOULD still have hauled ass to get back. His public skating puts him out of position even if the scoring shot gets stopped. Gotta have more effort.

  • http://twitter.com/pthread Jim Kelly

    It was weak play by him at that moment, there’s really not an argument about it. Yes, the media, especially NBC magnifies everything he does, but that doesn’t change the fact that objectively at that moment he should have done more. The retort of course is that a winger shouldn’t necessarily have to cheat that far down, and it was probably unexpected that the goalie and two other players would fall over. But still.

    Generally though the NBC coverage has been a joke. They’ve called him out for diving and for a head shot both of which had to be walked back when they actually looked at the play.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    Your nuance has no place on the internet.

  • Blueshirt fan

    Seriously, that long? What’s he doing, skating uphill into the wind on rollerblades? He can do that distance in 3 seconds or less at close to top speed, don’t believe? Next time flies his zone skating the other way time him…

  • Allen Khudak

    Ok, so I am a lifelong Rangers fan, but here’s the thing…on this particular play, Ovi was practically at the top of the face-off circle when Stepan got posession of the puck. So clearly, he wouldn’t have made it back in time…unless he had actually come back to back check. The issue is not laziness, the issue is that he has become more and more of a “superstar” and has let a lot of his team mentality and team intensity boil away. I’ve played my whole life, and as a kid, one of the first things you’re taught is that if you’re on the ice, your legs should be pumping, and you should be engaged. As a Russian and as a hockey fan, I try to love Ovi but it’s hard when I see stuff like this and his dirty play that peeks its’ head out here and there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregg.white.75 Gregg White

    Ovie was trailing the play after getting up off of the ice at the Center line. Play had ensued in the Caps’ D-Zone. When Ovie got to the D-Zone, he was the only player up high. It appears to me that he went immediately to the empty left point, the side of the ice where play was concentrated, thus the most logical disciplined defensive move that Ovie could make. Then Ovie moves a little to the high slot, putting him in proper position to manuever to whichever point zone necessary (still the only Caps defensive player high in the zone).
    From the video, I would be critical of how Oleksy played his man and how Backstrom, as the centerman, did not agressive attack the puck flow. Certainly, Ovie’s strengths are not his defensive game, but, in my humble amatuer mind, Ovie played a smart positional defensive shift there. Sure, we would have loved to have seen him flying into Stepan to save the day. But I do believe he performed his defensive responsibilities admirally. And I am a person that has often accused of Ovie playing lazily and irresponsibly away from the puck. Not in this case.

  • Praskin

    So we aRe supposed to look at the first screen shot of video at 14:07 on th clock with Ovi at red line and they score with 13:57 on clock and say its a 10 second skate from red line to goal line? You can tell by his body language he didn’t try at all to get back into coverage and it cost them. I’m sure he can skate from center ice to the net in less than 10 seconds.

  • Bryan

    Sorry, I don’t care what the situation is or the circumstances. On this play he looks completely disinterested and in “I don’t care” mode. He is our Captain. I don’t think Callahan would do that, no matter what was going on. Ovechkin is in my doghouse until he proves his worth.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    The title is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregg.white.75 Gregg White

    Sorry, it was the Rangers player that fell at Center ice, but it still impeded Ovie from getting back to the D-Zone.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    As for why Ovi didn’t come racing to the backcheck after the failed clear – could it possibly have been that there were still FOUR Caps still in the zone defending and that if one of them had managed to defend properly, he’d still need/want to be the lead man taking it through neutral ice?

  • Blueshirt fan

    Problem that I saw was poor gap control all night from the caps. The most obvious incidents ended up in the net. Holt by makes a great play in looking of Richards but still has no one to make a play to because they have all flown the zone early or never came back. He attempts a really bad up the middle, and bang, goal one. Same type of situation here, Ovie blows the zone and instead of chipping the puck out like should happen, MoJo is thinking, get puck to #8, turns it over and #8 is gone, and well yeah, he doesn’t strain himself coming back. This is a team problem of gap between forwards and D, tough to hang it all on Ovie even if he didn’t exactly make much effort to come back.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Very good point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.hoff Marc Hoff

    As @Bryan points out above, the team captain owes it to his teammates, to say nothing of the fans, to set a better example than this. Ryan Callahan has never floated back in his life.

  • Shushotora

    Only think Ovechkin could do was tie up the stick or take another penalty. With how the refs were calling things he could have tied up the stick and still gotten a dumb penalty.

    Ovi hattrick game 5 to make up for it.

  • yv

    Dammit Ovi, why you cant fly or, at-least pretend that you can fly, it is also all your fault!?!
    I didn’t know that there is Ovi’s blaming in this horrendous play and turnover committed by four nearby Caps. The ice level camera in the middle of video shows that Ovi was with falling Dman at the center ice line somewhere 60-80 feet away. Just idiotic commenting on par with PMg screaming about Ovis headhunting hit.

  • medic

    he just glides back into the defensive zone and watches the play. its just inexcusable, not matter how you spin it.

  • Albert

    Hey guys! I’ve been coaching up Alex for a few weeks now and I’m glad he’s taken my advice on how to play defense. SOME ONE has to keep 40+ shots from Holtby ya know? Anyways, I miss you guys and I’ll be back in town next month….

    For court…

    MUAH! XOXOXO

    Albie <3 Ovie

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    haha

    I think if you just paste the video URL it works.

  • Albert
  • Ash

    “Sorry, I don’t care what the situation is or the circumstances.” …that is the most confusing thing I have ever read. If you don’t care about the context or circumstances in a stuation (no, how does that even work?), why, um, comment? That states, “I have an opinion and I am not going to change it no matter what.”

    Yeah, Callahan would have dropped on the ice to block the shot, taken himself totally out of position, and allowed the GWG.

  • Ash

    Ryan Callahan makes mistakes, too. Hell, he made a pretty big one in the second game.

  • doeshin

    So, can either one of our two SWEDES just clear the puck? Isn’t that the REAL problem? yes ovie didn’t stride back and i am pretty sure it happened so quick that he wishes he had hurried back. or, he didn’t think our team is this incompetent to not be able to clear the puck without running into each other… it was a WTF moment for our 1st line. which has been many the past two games…

  • Craig

    Long shifts are a valid excuse for not having as much power in your strides and therefore not as much speed as usual. They’re not an excuse for gliding and giving up on a play entirely.

  • http://twitter.com/bmitchelf Brandon Franz

    This is the best defense. The Capitals already had four players low, so technically Ovechkin should be covering the point. Once he sees Stepan uncovered, he could try to skate over to him so he doesn’t look as bad as this, but he most likely would not have made it in time to break up the pass or shot.

    To refute some of the article, Ovechkin’s shift length when the goal was scored was only 32 seconds, so I would hope he was not tired from just that. If he was tired, he probably would have went to the bench because he was right next to it. He was on the bench for two Capitals shifts prior to that.

  • http://twitter.com/priscillamay1 Priscilla Villanueva

    Honestly, if ovi is the guy you’re relying on to save the day against a goal scorer, then you’re not using your troops correctly and you will not only lose the battle, you will lose the war. It’s like telling your navy seal sniper to go do the job of a tank. Doesn’t work. What we should be more worried about is his escapability from the defense. Not happening much in the last coupla games. He’s gotta find a way because this team doesn’t win without him scoring. And I believe that everything he did leading up to that Rangers goal was an attempt at doing that. He’s coached well. Good for him for listening.

  • carolpd

    SOOO RIGHT! Some of these media folks DELIBERATELY try to get into Ovie’s head. Our Team should have a black out for ALL media & announcers noise till we win “The Cup” this season!! Draw from the wins & all things positive!! Lets Go Caps!

  • Jerry

    Semin would of made that back check with a filthy stick lift and hard skate to the offensive zone for a wicked wrister

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregg.white.75 Gregg White

    Please accept my apologies!

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    It should be mentioned just 2 periods before a situation occurred and in which the “stellar” officials called Ovechkin for charging. I think a person that didn’t watch the entire game can translate this play as such because that’s what they love to do. I like to see it as #8 trying to be a smart a$$ and attempting to make it obvious he isn’t charging the net. Had this not resulted in a goal this goes mostly unnoticed.

  • lol

    Cool, now we have context for the inexcusable laziness! Great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregg.white.75 Gregg White

    As the last person entering the D-Zone, his responsibility is to cover the points. Which is what he did. Folks need to watch the whole sequence from center ice to goal. There are 6 defenders, 5 were trying to fulfill their roles. Ovie was trying to fulfill his role playing positionally responsible hockey. You can’t have it both ways: an Ovie that will skate all over the ice with no sense of his defensive role, or he will fulfill his defensive role and expect the rest of the team to fill their roles. “The end.” “Period.”

  • morthtein

    What a silly defense of Ovi. The fact that he was running out of the zone in expectation of a lead pass doesn’t excuse his lack of effort to get back into the play when his teammates failed to clear it. It may be their fault for turning the puck over to the Ranges, but it’s certainly his fault for ignoring that turnover and refusing to participate on defense at a critical moment.

  • Isis

    First of all, two Caps fail to clear the puck. Neither named Ovechkin. When the puck is turned over for the second time and the scoring play begins Ovechkin is hitting the blue line and goes to his correct spot defensively covering the open man at the point. Additionally as the second turnover occurs Hillen over compensates attacks the puck carrier and basically develops a 2 on 1 on himself. As the play develops quickly at the net should Ovechkin abandon his normal defensive position and crash the net? Probably. If he makes a break for the net upon seeing a scoring chance develop does he prevent a goal? Maybe, maybe not. For all intensive purposes if he drives hard the goal is still scored at the net or flung back to the open man at the point we instead are only talking about Ovechkin’s one goal in the series. The whole line is at fault, not one guy. Personally I think I think Ovechkkin had a strong first 3 games and the whole team needs to regroup.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=42211077 Owen Johnson

    The game was pretty damn atrocious all around. Wardo and Matty Perreaultcho Cinco were the only ones who came to play.
    Also, maybe we’ll get real officials in Game 5.

  • 28IS(still)GREAT

    We regular readers all know Peter’s real objective here was to bait and capture as many Ranger trolls as possible. And at that, he has succeeded spectacularly! Bravo, Peter!

  • guitboxgeek

    I think the Refs have taken Ovi out of his destroyer mentality with bs ticky tack calls. Problem as I see it though, is that Ovi needs to get over that hump and get back into the game physically because that sets his tone.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    THEIR HATE IS MY FOOD

  • JenniferH

    It’s such a bad visual, but yeah, not what it looked like and of course the “experts” just ignore the reality. Sigh.

  • berger

    Ovie is clearly the backside help in this situation. You want to force a pass to the point here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andywalker Andy Walker

    I’ve been seeing that a lot and a couple of Penguins fan friends of mine posted it on my Facebook wall and laughed at it. Rather than delete the comments, I made a simple rebuttal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Photon.Nyan.Kat Kathleen Meredith

    I’m still waiting for a vid of one of you guys parodying this…

  • Earl Monroe

    Do you know what charging as a penalty means? Also, playoffs games are not the time to be sarcastic, Or whatever it is you are claiming.

  • Jonathan

    at the end he should have give a last effort, at least

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    I absolutely know what charging as a penalty is. Calm down with the sarcasm dig. I’m just trying to lighten the conversation…Geez. Maybe it was explained wrong. I guess because I’ve been watching Ovi play his entire NHL career I refuse to buy the too lazy bit and I’m over the attack campaigns. He has flaws as does every single “C” in the NHL. I’m just as frustrated as you are at last night’s game. They got comfortable with the lead and as they’ve had the habit of doing all season let down their guard. I honestly feel as though Ovi saw this goal coming and basically gave up out of frustration. Is it the right thing to do? Clearly not. Does it look like the attitude a leader of your team should have? Nope.

    Point to this long winded response that no one will probably bother reading is had Mojo cleared the zone, Ovi likely breaks away with a fantastic scoring opportunity and everyone would be talking about what a damn genius he was for seeing the play long before it developed.

    Is it f’ing necessary to demoralize someone on a comment feed because you disagree with them or possibly read too deep into it?

  • Hockeynightincanada

    I’m actually surprised Backstrom has received some flack. Backstrom played a very strong game along the boards and defensively last night. He occupied his man Callahan around the defensive zone crease, he prevented Boyle from entering the Ranger’s blueline to try and keep the puck in. That’s how you do it.

    I thought he was one of our better players the last 2 games.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Yeah, Pete! I bet you’d look good with eyeliner on!

  • Jeremy Reynolds

    “he assumed his guys were gonna clear the zone.”

    You really think this is the kind of mentality a professional hockey player making his kind of money should have?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Trust in teammates? Yes. Yes, I do.

  • http://twitter.com/SlavaMalamud Slava Malamud

    Yes, we know. We are unprincipled narrative-pushers, the bunch of us. People should only trust fan blogs, those paragons of objectivity. Because if you can’t trust a guy in the stands screaming at a ref for a sober analysis, whom can you trust? People who are paid to provide it?

    Seriously, guys… I love you, I always try to give you ink, but your crusade against the bogey-man of the “MSM narrative” has become a narrative by itself.

  • Peter

    I appreciate the comment, Slava, though I don’t think you’re being fair. First, I myself admitted Ovechkin’s play was lazy, and we have been very critical of him in the past. We are homers, but we investigate our own biases.

    Second, the story of Ovi’s lazy backcheck only succeeds when the reporters, who know better, skip over the facts of the situation: failed breakout, Caps down a goal, Johansson avoiding hits along the boards, Ovi skating in neutral, Ovi colliding with a guy. To sell this story, reporters have to obfuscate, and that is the opposite of their jobs.

    Finally, I don’t see what amateur/professional status has to do with it, but I’d love to hear you expand on what your point is there. I don’t have player access or a travel budget, but I write better and think harder than lots of pros. While I don’t presume you follow my writing closely, I think my record stands up. “Fan blogs” have biases, but those biases are avowed, and they are way less sinister than the actual biases (like the above mentioned confirmation bias) that make sports writing mostly shit.

    Cheers.

    PS written from my phone

  • http://twitter.com/SlavaMalamud Slava Malamud

    I’ll start from the end. Let me assure you, I write good. In fact, writing goodly is what done got me my professional status, after a few years of working for pittance. I don’t know who and how got their pay-check-ability in any other way, but I will admit that there are those whose goodity of writing is not up to snuff. I cannot argue their position. Writing ungood doesn’t come naturally to me and I can’t put myself in their shoes. I do object, however, to being lumped with those whose writing is unwell.

    But getting money-paid for good-writing, in my case, came after putting in the kind of work-torture no blogger can possibly imagine-comprehend. I will not expound on the pleasures of deadlines, screaming editors, all-nighters and (my personal favorite) working a World Championship bronze-medal game with a second-degree concussion right after filing 4000 words in the same condition because the newspaper cannot just freaking go and print a blank page, now can it, because all of it, pertaining to the ancient medium of paper, will likely make you laugh derisively. I myself am not even sure anymore whether I had to use Morse code or not. Engraving skills were likely required.

    I am also not sure whether my personal work history is representative or comparable with North American colleagues, whom we, Russians, tend to view in about the same way as King Leonidas’ splendidly naked homies would view a modern-day drone operator.

    All that I knew or cared about was that my ability to continue providing lower-middle-class income for my growing family sorely depended on the expediency, quality, accountability and reputation of my work. Which tended to make its content and my approach to producing it substantially different from someone who is a) a fan, b) doing it for excrement and chuckles, c) plays by his own arbitrary set of rules.

    Which is not to say that said individual’s work cannot be of better quality than my heroically filled-out inches. It is only to say that said person’s attempts to accuse me of unprincipled, biased narrative-spewing have a more-than-trivial capacity to offend.

    Writers have opinions. There are articles which can be written without them and there are those that cannot. Opinions, by definition, may or may not soothe a fan’s soul by being 100% agreeable with his or her cherished emotions. It is within a fan’s right to present their own opinions and respectfully call a writer out on his being the fan’s favorite kind of sexual deviant. Or scrupulously calculate the exact level of shit in his work.

    It is ironic, however (to say the least), to accuse writers of being fixated on narratives while pushing a narrative of your own. Which is pretty much the whole definition of being a fan, the last time I checked the array of stains on my own Dominik Hasek jersey.

    And, truthfully, for the amount of times I see it on blogs, “media is pushing a narrative” has become much more of a narrative in itself than anything Mike Milbury, bless his hard-drinking soul, has ever said. For every sullen-eyed beat writer who looks at a singular lazy Ovech-play and sees the topic of his next column, there is a legion of smug bloggers who see a writer having an opinion and scream bloody narrative.

    I don’t know what a perfect blogger’s world looks like. Perhaps it’s a world in which reporters are replaced by simple, cheap, easy to assemble tape-recorder holders and all the fun and opinionated banter is left to the fans. But seeing as we’ve invented sports-related banter in the first place, I hope you understand that we won’t go quietly.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Well said.

    I don’t know if this matters to you, but I hope it does: I didn’t imagine you at all in the writing of this article.

    I don’t know you to erase parts of a story in effort to present the most digestible version of it. I haven’t seen that in your work at all. I have seen it in others’ (Deadspin, Big Lead). Those are the (bad) writers I called out in the piece. Those people eschewed information in service of story. If you think I’m prioritizing a narrative, please point me to where I did the same.

    I’ve got a lot of respect for you, and I worry that I’ve slighted you in a way I didn’t intend.. All I want is a sports media that serves foremost to inform– which is not unreasonable. I don’t really know how to reconcile with the post-post-post-modern reading of it: that Ovi’s initial awesomeness is no longer so awesome but in fact the reduced awesomeness is an endemic flaw in the media but wait wait wait no that’s a flaw in myself.

    My only only only point is that criticism and praise of Alex Ovechkin– in my observed estimation– is out of proportion. That’s not radical at all. And I’m saying that with more information– and less sensationalism– readers would be better served.

    Y’know– that’s no so radical after all.

    Again– you rock.

    P

  • http://twitter.com/SlavaMalamud Slava Malamud

    Peter, but sports media never will, and never did, serve only to inform. Opinion, conjecture and emotion have always been an integral part of our job description. One of the earliest examples of sports writing in Russia is a short article about a soccer match between a group of gentlemen from Saint Petersburg and a team from Finland, then an oppressed Russian colony. The article mentions the score and which gentlemen “kicked for the goals” and then goes on to say that “all of the Finns were playing quite appallingly.” The Finnish team won the match.

    Also, Red Grange wasn’t actually a dead horse during his college days, so he couldn’t possibly be a galloping ghost and Grantland Rice was almost certainly issuing his unconfirmed opinion when he said that a football team’s backfield was four mounted warriors (what was is with my American colleagues and equine metaphors?).

    Some work does indeed contain nothing but facts, real or purported. See every single tweet by the venerable Bob McKenzie, whom I have promised to get gloriously drunk in Sochi. Some contain nothing but opinion. See almost every single tweet by yours truly (except for my tweets on religion, which are confirmed facts). Others contain both.

    Opinions, by their nature, can and should be discussed. I have no problem with your taking Deadspin, or ESPN, or WaPo, or myself to task on whatever opinion we air. I find your analysis well thought-out. And, by the way, my own opinion of the Ovechkin episode is that, while a bad play, it’s not indicative of his level of dedication as a whole.

    But it’s when you start saying that the article (or the headline) by Deadspin is indicative of media as a whole, due to the fact that narratives is all we care about, you go after a profession. A hard one. According to my sources, in Russia, it’s the one with the second highest level of alcoholism after traffic cops.