Not Enough Hart

The Hockey Guys Brandon Augienello and Anthony Curatolo combined to tell the tale. A story of a superstar comparison and what it means now.

It appears as if being the president isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

For the second consecutive season, the now debatable President’s Trophy curse has checked in to say hello. Last year, it was the San Jose Sharks and their annual rite of spring choke job against the Anaheim Ducks, led by their diminutive and unproven netminder Jonas Hiller. This season, the black cloud made it’s way out east, well southeast to be exact, as the Washington Capital, the 121 point accumulating Washington Capitals  were sent home for the summer, as the Montreal Canadiens, led by their relatively unproven netminder Jaroslav Halak turned the mighty Caps offense from shotguns to pop-guns.

Last night one man was expected to show up and end a battle in part of this war we call the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He didn’t.

The great “8”, as he is so often hailed as, failed to be just that… great.

In the playoffs each and every year we witness secondary players  step up and become nothing short of heroic.

We also witness great players become elite.

Last season, despite one instance of heroism by Alexander Ovechkin, his performance was sub-par because his team failed to advance. Advancing is what it’s all about in the playoffs.

Two years ago, he failed to deliver in a series against the Philadelphia Flyers, in another series that ended in a seventh dramatic game.

This past winter in Vancouver, in a game between two powerhouses, his team came up midget-like short.

For the past few seasons there has been a much similar situation residing out on the left coast.

Joe Thornton, the man with top line talent of the San Jose Sharks, has been rightly labeled a big game and playoff choke for years now. This is a player considered to be on a list making up the so-called top 10 centers in the league.

The parallels between the Sharks and Capitals don’t stop at this feeble destination. As many know, Alex Ovechkin, captain and face of the D.C.-based franchise, is the reigning two-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner. Joe Thornton, assistant/alternate captain and stand-out regular season player, is the face of the San Jose Sharks, as well as the 2006 winner of that same exact trophy.

These awards, as much of an honor as they are, pale in comparison to the big trophy that has thus far eluded both “superstars”.

Before last night’s 2-1 Montreal stunner, Alex Ovechkin wasn’t synonymous with failure. Joe Thornton, for the last few seasons is more than synonymous with that term, he redefines it. But with the lofty expectations the Capitals had around the league to be upset by a team that barely qualified for the playoffs, as the failing team’s leader, doubts have now been heaped upon Ovie’s broad shoulders.

Now as we shall see shortly, the statistics for each, when it comes to the postseason, are practically night and day. But in sports, you are defined much more for winning championships, than you are as accumulating all-star individual numbers.

One person that comes to mind, in regards to this is Mike Gartner. The man scored over 700 career goals, but very few people ever mention him as being one of the greatest players of all-time, which individually, his numbers suggest exactly that.  Fact is though, Gartner never won a Stanley Cup, which isn’t to say 100% of the blame can be laid on him. But just like life, sports can be cruel and nobody remembers someone, even as great as he was, when you never were able to be apart of a title team.

Blaming  Thornton and Ovechkin for not being able to bring their respective teams to the proverbial promised land isn’t something that you could hang entirely on either individuals. Hockey is not a sport where a singular player can win it all by themselves. The team around these marquee-type players need to carry their own weight in order to make the load just a little lighter, for the burden of being the “man” on a hockey team or any team for that matter, is something that can be overwhelming.

But as the old saying goes, heavy is the head of he who wears the crown.

Alex Ovechkin and Joe Thornton get the lions share of the praise when they rack up the points and awards, on an almost yearly basis.

For Ovechkin, those numbers are keenly deceiving. In 28 playoff games played, he has tallied 40 points(20G, 20A). By those stats alone, one can argue that the comparison to notorious playoff gag artist, Thornton, is extremely unfair. But when you are known as one of, if not the best player in the game, you are expected to deliver in the biggest games.

Thus far in four Game 7 scenarios, Ovechkin’s team has only secured victory one time, against the Rangers in last season’s Eastern quarterfinal, but he didn’t factor on the score sheet despite the win. He was blanked in last night’s
game, as well as the elimination game against the Penguins last season.

Despite the impressive numbers he has put up, in the crunch he is starting to build a reputation of Thornton-like proportions.

Speaking of, unlike Ovechkin who can hide behind his numbers, somewhat, there isn’t a rock big enough on this planet that Thornton can hide under. The team results are obviously non-existent but so are his individual achievements in the postseason. For a guy who has won a scoring title and has averaged over a point per game throughout his career, his playoffs production leaves terribly too much to be desired. In 76 postseason contests, Thornton has a paltry 12 goals and 53 points. Someone needs to remind him that the season doesn’t end when the playoffs begin.

Wayne Gretzky, who had his fair share of Hart Trophies along with four Stanley Cups once said that there were three seasons in hockey: the regular season, the postseason and the Stanley Cup finals. Thornton and Ovechkin have mastered the regular season and have failed substantially in the postseason.

And during his first round series against Montreal, Alex the Great did pot five goals. In two close-out games, he was unlike his usual bombastic, relentless self and he and his team suffered greatly for it.

What becomes of the man considered to be the best player of the new era NHL when it truly counts? As for Thornton, the beat goes on, despite advancing onto the second round of this year’s playoffs. But if this nasty trend continues, the other season that the “Great One” spoke of, will never be known by either.

0 Responses to Not Enough Hart

  1. Ovi has to stop playing for himself and start playing for the team. Not until then will he have his name etched on that cup.

  2. I completely agree. Does this mean the Hart Trophy has relinquished all relevance in history’s eyes to the Conn Smythe? Because I have to say, it really has in mine. Go ahead, give Ovi the Hart. If Halak wins the Conn, it’s a much bigger victory to me.

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