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Monday, May 1, 2017

Ovechkin vs Hainsey's Ear: Split Decision? Hardly.

The ride Pittsburgh Penguins fans have been provided with thus far in the 2nd Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against easily their second biggest rival, the Washington Capitals, has been nothing short of fun. With the Pens holding a 2-0 series lead on the continuing strong play of Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and crew, there is a lot for fans of the reigning Stanley Cup Champions to be happy about.

With any rivalry, however, there comes an expectation of irrational reactions to events that happen in the course of a game and, at times, the moments following them.

Case and point, the portrayal of Capitals Captain Alexander Ovechkin's errant shot late in the 3rd period of Saturday night's Game 2 match-up that found - and split - the ear of Penguins Defenseman Ron Hainsey.

To be clear, Alex Ovechkin is a positive for the sport of hockey and the NHL as a whole. He's immensely talented. His shot will go down as legendary. But the Russian star is known - in places not named Washington, D.C. - to take certain liberties when it comes to his style of play. Every star has and does.

That said, to take Ovechkin's reputation as a prolific scorer with one of the best shots the game has ever seen and transpose it with his tendency to leap into checks or get away with Charging in order to "prove" the "intent to injure" conspiracy is both bogus and dumb.

Taking a moment to simply look at the play how it unfolded reveals that, for all the reasons we Penguins fans may have to hate The Great 8, there was ZERO basis for believing Ovechkin had any intention whatsoever of hitting Hainsey, let alone injuring him.

If you focus on the puck, it clearly comes off the heel of Ovechkin's stick prior to the release of his shot. That is quite literally all you need to know.

Shooting a puck with accuracy all but requires that it remain on your stick for as long as possible before its release. After Ovi had committed to shooting the puck, it had jumped out in front of his wheelhouse by a good foot, forcing him to reach out for it, shooting off more of the toe of his blade instead.

The only conclusions that can be reached on this matter are as follows:
  • The Pens had likely all but wrapped up the game at that point.
  • The Caps did still have a chance to come back and tie, albeit a slim chance.
  • Ovechkin's shot was going to happen, especially since it was on the powerplay.
  • The potential accuracy of the shot was compromised the moment the puck caromed off of the heel of Ovechkin's stick.
  • Hainsey's ear paid the price.
And that's it.

Regardless of what players either said directly or implied or created as an impression to reporters immediately following the game, facts are facts. And any fan who can't recognize that their own conspiratorial beliefs are irrationally-based 36 hours after the fact are best left ignored.

Bring on Game 3.

Let's Go Pens.

BONUS FOOTAGE (Author's Note: Thanks go to PI's Dave Bytnar for pointing it out.):

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