Will the NHL get wise to Ovechkin's dirty ways?

Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari

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Q: Will the NHL finally get the hint that Alex Ovechkin is a very dirty player and start suspending him? You hate to see a player get hurt, but he did this to himself while trying to hurt another opponent.

Jim Schloder, Jacksonville, Fla.

MOLINARI: Ovechkin, the Washington left winger who is the most volatile goal-scorer in the game, has received major penalties and game misconducts in two of his past three games, which is pretty compelling evidence that the on-ice officials, at least, aren't giving him a pass for doing things they consider to be dangerous.

He was assessed a boarding major for a hit on Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta last Wednesday and a kneeing major for hitting Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason Monday night. In the latter incident, Ovechkin hurt his right knee. As of this writing, there was no word on how much time, if any, he was expected to miss.

Overchkin's willingness to play a physical game is a terrific complement to his lethal shooting ability, but he does have a tendency to cross the line between hard-hitting and headhunting occasionally. (The Penguins probably have been aware of that longer than most clubs, since Ovechkin trying to lay out countryman Evgeni Malkin -- even if it required skating the length of the rink at full speed -- became a staple of Penguins-Capitals games several years ago.)

There's nothing wrong with superstars playing a hard-nosed game -- in fact, it only enhances their value -- and it's inevitable that any player is going to stray outside the rulebook every now and then if they play the body frequently and vigorously. Ovechkin, though, tends to take that idea to an extreme, and if being injured himself on a play the referees deemed dirty enough to throw him out doesn't rein him in a bit, perhaps a suspension or two will have that effect.

It would be a shame to have Ovechkin's exuberance for his work be dampened that way, but it would be a much bigger one to see an opponent end up in the hospital -- or out of the game altogether -- because of the damage inflicted by one of Ovechkin's outside-the-rulebook hits. Give Ovechkin this, though: At least he's never clubbed his own goalie in the head with a stick, which puts him one up on Keith Ballard.

Q: Do you know the NHL record for most points posted by a club's defensemen in a season? It seems that with gifted offensive playmakers in Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski, and Kris Letang, as well as unexpected production from the likes of Jay McKee and Martin Skoula, the Penguins might have a shot at eclipsing that record, or at least coming close it. I can't seem to find such a record anywhere, and would be curious to see how close the Pens do come to it.

Stephen Grivnow, Carrick

MOLINARI: The Elias Sports Bureau, the ultimate authority on all things statistical, says the standard was set by the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, which got 303 points from players who were listed as playing defense. (No fewer than 126 of those, by the way, came from Paul Coffey.)

The good folks at Elias, however, noted that it's impossible to come up with a precise number for a team this season, let alone in some bygone year, because players who are considered defensemen most of the time occasionally take a shift up front. In fact, there have been players -- Phil Bourque comes immediately to mind -- who spent a significant portion of their career on defense, and another major chunk of it up front.

The Penguins have done very little, if any, of that sort of thing this season, and the 10 players who've appeared on their blue line have put up 72 points in 28 games. That projects to 211 over an 82-game season.


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