Dreger: Polling NHL players on whether Ovechkin is reckless

Darren Dreger

12/1/2009 6:09:42 PM

Alexander Ovechkin's knee-on-knee hit on Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason Monday night earned Ovechkin a two-game suspension following his second major penalty and game misconduct in less than a week.

The hit on Gleason and subsequent suspension raises the question: is the Capitals star a reckless player?

"He's pretty reckless. It is hard telling a guy who scores 60 goals a year to change the way he plays," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Times. "At the same time, you don't want to see him getting hurt. Maybe he needs to pick his spots a little better." 

Ovechkin injured his knee in the collision with Gleason and is listed as "day-to-day" according to the Capitals' public relations team.

"I don't think there is a malicious bone of him trying to hurt anybody. He just plays hard and he plays to win every shift," Boudreau told the Times. 

Obviously, and understandably, Boudreau's assessment of Ovechkin's aggressive approach to the game flatters a player whose play is often deserving of such praise, but the head coach's acknowledgement that Ovechkin can be reckless is shared by some of his peers.

In an informal poll, TSN asked 25 NHL players whether they viewed Ovechkin as a hard-hitting player, or more often as a reckless and dirty player.

Eight of the 17 players who responded to the question said they regard Ovechkin as a very good, hard-hitting player, while seven consider him to be both reckless and dirty.

Two NHL players said he is normally very hard hitting, but that recently he has been reckless.

Detroit Red Wings forward Brad May is one of the 17 players who participated in the anonymous poll, but May asked that his opinion on Ovechkin to be revealed.

He said he saw no reason for the NHL to suspend Ovechkin for the hit on Gleason.

"Incidental contact! Remember, it's a physical game," said May. "People forget that. I have no issue with him. He's fast and aggressive and stuff happens."

That "stuff" includes a major for boarding Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta in a game last week.

Ovechkin was also fined by the National Hockey League in October for slew-footing Atlanta's Rich Peverley in the final minutes of a 5-4 win over the Thrashers.

Another incident occurred last spring when Ovechkin had a knee-on-knee with Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar in game four of the Penguins-Capitals Eastern Conference semi-final series.

Surprisingly, Gonchar missed just two games before returning to help the Penguins win a Stanley Cup Championship.

Ovechkin also came under fire in 2006 when he hit then-Sabres forward Daniel Briere from behind as Briere was heading towards Buffalo's bench for a line change.

Up to this point in his career, Ovechkin has done a decent job of straddling the line between a dynamic, game-breaking superstar and a player capable of deliver devasating body checks (and being willing to do so).

This time, according to NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, Ovechkin crossed that line.