ovechkin-debate-091201

Does Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, left, cross the line from physical to dirty play? ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

Every interested hockey eye has been turned towards Alex Ovechkin on Tuesday, but this time it's for all the wrong reasons.

The Capitals superstar was ejected from Monday's game against Carolina after a knee-on-knee hit on Tim Gleason left both players sprawling.

No. 8's track record and penchant for physical play is under the microscope yet again as Ovechkin, who is day-to-day with a knee injury, has now been suspended by the NHL for two games following the Gleason hit, which was his second ejection in the past three games.

But does Ovechkin play dirty, or is he just misunderstood? CBCSports.ca's Brandon Hicks listens to two of his several personalities as they duke it out over the issue.

Ovechkin's a dirty player

Brandon: This shouldn't even be up for debate. Of course he's a dirty player! Let's just forget about his, ahem, two ejections in three games for questionable hits, and look at his recent track record:

  • Exhibit A: He slew-footed Atlanta's Rich Peverley in October, and was fined $2,500 US for the hit — the low amount probably stemming from the fact that Peverley didn't miss any time.
  • Exhibit B: Remember the 2009 playoffs? Remember seeing Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar doing a double-axel after Ovie stuck out his knee and sent him pirouetting into the air? Yeah. That happened. Gonchar missed several games because of that little gem.
  • Exhibit C: Ovechkin sent Tampa's Jamie Heward off the ice on a stretcher last January after he slammed him headfirst into the boards. Heward still hasn't played pro hockey since that concussion.
  • Exhibit Z: Every single night he's taking at least one 6,000-stride skate-and-jump run at a defender.

Oh, right, forgot: He has two ejections in his last three games for questionable (read: dirty) hits! He slammed Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta face-first into the wall and got a major boarding penalty on Wednesday, and followed that up by kneeing Gleason Monday.

Any other player would have been suspended several times already with a track record like that. But Ovechkin's superstar status seems to get him out of jail more times than the Monopoly guy.

No. 8 is tough, but clean

Brandon: Brandon, you're being silly. There's no way that Ovechkin's a dirty player! Hard-hitting and very physical, yes, but not dirty.

Not only is he the best player in the game right now, he's also the hardest hitter out there. With his excellent speed, skill, and strength, of course he's going to hurt people! It's unavoidable. The guy moves so fast that his targets can't get completely out of his way, and bringing all that strength to bear at full speed is bound to send some opponents to the locker-room.

Take a closer look at the incidents you mentioned: It's debatable whether Ovie stuck out his knee on Gonchar in last year's playoffs, or Gleason on Monday. Both guys tried to avoid the check and didn't get completely out of the way. How is it that Ovechkin's fault?

Ditto with Tampa's Heward, who tried to spin away from No. 8 but still got pasted. In Kaleta's case, Ovie aimed for Kaleta's shoulder — not his back — and it was his strength and speed that sent Kaleta into the boards, not his angle of attack.

As for Peverley? Battling for the puck, plain and simple, and they got tangled up.

Bottom line, it's unfortunate that these guys were dinged, but a player shouldn't be ridiculed because he's just too fast, too strong, and willing to throw his weight around.

We've said our piece. Now it's your turn. Is Ovechkin dirty? Post your comment below and have your say.