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Postby JansenFan » Sat Apr 12, 2008 10:56 pm

James Duthie @ The Ottawa Citizen wrote:OVECHKIN: NHL fans' PLAN B
Saturday, April 12, 2008

When your favourite NHL team doesn't make the playoffs or is headed toward quick elimination in the first round (not that you'd know any team like that), hockey fans can do one of two things: Turn off the TV, go outside and rake the ... ah ... snow, or go to Plan B and bandwagon-jump another club.

C'mon, we all do it. It doesn't mean you have to buy their car flag. You just quietly release your inner Angelina Jolie and adopt them for a couple of months.

And right now, the Washington Capitals are harder to resist than a puppy in a shelter.

They are becoming everyone's second-favourite team.

This is due almost entirely to the infectious enthusiasm and amusing facial hair of one Alexander Ovechkin.

Case in point last night. Held in check for most of Game 1 against Philadelphia, he exploded in the third period with a key assist on the tying goal, a ridiculous double-steal game-winner, and a fistful of big hits in the final minute. "Hello playoffs, I'm Alex. Get used to me."

After two years of playing bass to lead singer Sidney Crosby in the small band of NHL megastars, this is Ovechkin's time. The Great Eight has already won the Art Ross and the Rocket Richard, and the Hart is a formality. He has also caught Crosby in terms of mass popularity.

If they meet in the second round, it will be the hockey equivalent of Tiger and Phil in the final pairing tomorrow at Augusta. No, wait, it's better. Tiger and Phil can't whack each other in the back of the knees with their lob wedges (and that's a shame).

While Sidney is polished and corporate slick, Ovechkin is still a raw, wild child. He has barely changed from the rookie who jumped around the tee-box screaming after getting a hole-in-one at the Capitals' golf tournament, yelling to teammates across three fairways: "It went een! I swear a Gawd!"

He celebrates every goal like it's the OT winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final (can't wait to see what he does when he actually scores the OT winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final).

He is adored by coaches, teammates and ... opponents. At an after-after-after party (put it this way: it was late) at the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, a group of players greeted Ovechkin's arrival with cheers, man-hugs and high-fives, like he was the president of their fraternity. Alpha Phi Snipe.

When the NHL's Slam-Dunk Contest-style shootout made its debut earlier that night (whose goofy idea was that, anyway? Oh. Right.), he was the only one with the onions to attempt the kind of circus tricks the league was hoping for. Even when he whiffed, the crowd went nuts.

The kids just gets it. On ice and off. Back in February, we were doing a story about a six-year-old cancer survivor, Jordan Primeau, whose dream was to meet the Toronto Maple Leafs (children get confused at that age). Ovechkin happened to be in town, and when he heard about the story, asked if he could meet the boy, too. He came to the rink early to spend a few minutes with Jordan, and gave him an autographed stick. Jordan's allegiances are now torn.

He's not alone. In hockey fashion, the Capitals are the new black. They aren't the traditional Cinderella, thanks to the wonky seeding system that allows the eighth-best team in the conference to have the third spot. In fact, most consider them a slight favourite against Philadelphia. But they still carry that underdog air. Their coach is a lovable career minor-leaguer who looks like Benny Hill, and does nothing but win.

So if you've given up hope on your team, fret not. The Adopt-the-Caps program is free, and available to frustrated fans of all playoff-missing and soon-to-be playoff-eliminated clubs. You know who you are. (Don't get angry people, I meant ... uh ... Bruins fans.)

James Duthie is the host of the NHL on TSN. Watch Game 2 of the Capitals-Flyers Series tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
RIP 21

"Nah, I trust the laws of nature to stay constant. I don't pray that the sun will rise tomorrow, and I don't need to pray that someone will beat the Cowboys in the playoffs." - Irn-Bru

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