In the new age of sports media, if you’re a superstar who has not won a championship or somewhat improved your stats from the year before, you get branded an overpaid heel and get flogged furiously by big-name network TV analysts for not trying hard enough or being too dim to adjust your game. It’s hard to recall now, but there was once a time when Ilya Bryzgalov’s fascination with space was just a personality quirk from an elite goaltender.
But if you’re Alex Ovechkin, a man whose every breath is compared to Canada’s favorite son, Sidney Crosby, a successful position change, an attitude adjustment, and some new hardware still may not guarantee positive reviews from the media.
Let’s take everybody’s favorite oddly dressed, bigoted uncle, Don Cherry, who gave an interview to Sovetsky Sport’s Leonid Varshavsky before game five of the Stanley Cup Finals. While predicting Ovechkin will be even better next season, Cherry still managed to get a couple digs in on Ovi for “taking all the criticism from the press too close to his heart.” How dare he. Also, Cherry has no idea who Maria Kirilenko is.
Igor Kleyner has your translation.
Let’s talk about Ovechkin. The start of the season didn’t go well for him. But then he improved greatly. Why?
Here is what happened with Ovechkin. He was taking all the criticism from the press too close to his heart. I was telling him on my show: “Ovi, the media is either at your feet, or stepping on your throat.”
It was hard for him in the beginning of the season. But coach Adam Oates supported him. He knows how difficult it can be for the stars, he had to go through that himself. In my opinion, it was Adam who helped Ovi. He turned him around.
Could it be Maria Kirilenko who helped him?
Who is that?
A great tennis player and his muse. Maybe they will get married soon. Sasha has settled down…
His game has changed, but not because of that. Ovi no longer runs around aimlessly, trying to kill someone. I told him that he needs to change his style. Everybody knew what he was going to do, and could easily read his next step. Now everything is different. Ovechkin’s new season will be much better.
Cherry found time in the interview to defend his recent comments about former Hart- and Conn Smythe-winner Evgeni Malkin, whom he called a “talented dog” and a “loser.” This time, Cherry suggested Ovechkin as an example Malkin should model himself after, which is odd.
Everyone remembers what you said about Malkin. Many people didn’t like it.
I said what I said. Geno plays when he wants to play. And that’s true. When he’s on, he’s the best Russian player I’ve ever seen. Even better than Ovechkin. You can’t take puck away from Malkin. But you’ve got to give your all. You’ve gotta play hard even when you don’t want to. Ovechkin gives it everything he’s got in every game. I don’t like when players don’t give it their best. Though everyone knows your potential, Geno.
Additional reporting by Fedor Fedin.