ShareThis Page
Mark Madden

Mark Madden: Marc-Andre Fleury will get the best of Alex Ovechkin again

| Saturday, May 26, 2018, 6:36 p.m.
WINNIPEG, MB - MAY 20:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Vegas Golden Knights reacts after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals to advance to the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Bell MTS Place on May 20, 2018 in Winnipeg, Canada.  (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images)
Getty Images
WINNIPEG, MB - MAY 20: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Vegas Golden Knights reacts after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals to advance to the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Bell MTS Place on May 20, 2018 in Winnipeg, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images)
The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin skates off the ice after the Capitals lost to the Penguins 3-1 during game 4 of round 2 Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday, May 3, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin skates off the ice after the Capitals lost to the Penguins 3-1 during game 4 of round 2 Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday, May 3, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on May 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on May 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Penguins fans enjoy belittling Alex Ovechkin. He's not the player Sidney Crosby is.

Actually, that's not belittling. That's plain fact.

But Ovechkin is, by far, the premier goal-scorer of his era. Given how offense mostly has been choked out of hockey, that puts the Washington left winger among the top goal-scorers ever by any means of estimation.

Ovechkin has 607 goals in 1,003 NHL games. Ovechkin, 32, could get to 800 goals; 802 would place him second all-time.

Until this year, Ovechkin's Capitals never had been past the second round of the playoffs, let alone won a Stanley Cup. The Penguins eliminated them three times in Ovechkin's previous 12 seasons.

But the Capitals' failures weren't fueled by Ovechkin.

Before this spring, Ovechkin had 46 goals and 44 assists in 97 career playoff games. That's elite production.

But Ovechkin never netted that defining goal, the tally that put the Capitals over the top.

In particular, he never scored that goal on Marc-Andre Fleury.

In 2009, Fleury stopped Ovechkin's Game 7 breakaway. In last spring's Game 7, Ovechkin launched a blast from the slot that appeared labeled. But Fleury turned it aside with the shaft of his stick.

Luck? Sure. Winners get lucky.

In these playoffs, Ovechkin has 12 goals and 10 assists in 19 games. He finally got the Capitals past the second round. To the Stanley Cup Final, in fact.

Ovechkin's goal 62 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final at Tampa Bay sucked the air out of the building and the life out of the Lightning.

But Ovechkin still hasn't got the best of Fleury in a playoff situation.

Now, he gets another chance.

The Capitals play Fleury's Vegas Golden Knights in the final, enabling Pittsburgh to live vicariously through the beloved ex-Penguins goaltender.

It also enables Penguins fans to root against Ovechkin and to debate ad nauseam whether the Penguins should have kept Fleury, not Matt Murray.

It's not like Ovechkin has been stymied continuously by Fleury. Ovechkin has 22 goals in 38 career regular-season games against Fleury, 10 goals in 14 postseason contests. That's 32 goals in 52 games. Above and beyond.

But he never scored a goal that beat Fleury in a playoff series.

Can he get it in the Stanley Cup Final?

Even though Pittsburgh will be passionately pulling for Fleury, some respect (however grudging) should be accorded Ovechkin.

He has been the worthiest of foes, a gap-toothed pantomime Russian villain straight out of Central Casting, a steamrolling semi-dirty one-timing marksman who might be in a class with Crosby but packs a totally different style and demeanor. The contrast has been a big part of the fun.

Ovechkin plays tough but fair. He is, by all accounts, a good guy.

If his Capitals win four more games, Ovechkin almost certainly gets the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. If not, Fleury gets it. The renewal of this rivalry is an extremely direct showdown.

Fleury has been absolutely amazing all season and in these playoffs. His Golden Knights have been the same.

It's hard to remember a team that has executed like Vegas over the course of an entire season. They started 8-1, haven't had a losing streak longer than three games, and are the NHL's fastest team (like the Penguins used to be).

When a first-year team can coalesce so brilliantly and immediately, it explodes the theory of building chemistry.

GM George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant should win executive and coach of the year, respectively. The awards should be re-named after them.

It's a classic matchup. Two teams looking for their first Stanley Cup. One has been around since 1974, the other since October. Ovechkin vs. Fleury. McPhee's old team vs. McPhee's new team. Washington's star power vs. Vegas' balance. The Golden Knights have four second lines.

The Golden Knights will cap the most unlikely run in hockey history by winning the Stanley Cup in six games. Close but no cigar for Ovechkin, but he will have proven much.

But probably not enough for Penguins fans.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me