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Sports Then and Now

Alex Ovechkin Serves as Russia’s “Pinch Hitter”

Posted on February 24, 2010 by Angie Lewis
The hit heard around Russia.

The hit heard around Russia.

Alex Ovechkin is one of those players who can change the flow of a game with one play. Sometimes, it’s with a scintillating goal from some obscure position. Other times, Ovechkin just knows how to be in the right place at the right time.

Sunday during the Czech Republic vs. Russia game was a perfect example of Ovechkin’s good timing. While Ovechkin is known to be a great scorer, he is also known for delivering the big hit from time to time. It was in this game where Ovechkin put a hit on Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr that declared Russian control of the game.

In the final period Russia lead 2-1, the Czechs had to make some moves offensively to tie the game, and they had to do it soon. Jagr had possession of the puck on his way toward Russian territory.

Back when I played hockey, I rarely heard any other piece of advice as much as I heard, “Keep your head up!” Especially in open ice.

Unfortunately, for Jagr, by the time he picked his head up to look, Ovechkin was a split second away from him and delivered a bone-crushing hit. Jagr instantaneously dropped to the ice, feeling the whiplash from the contact.

The puck was loose and Russian Alex Semin picked up the gift. He took it down to the Czech zone, and passed it to Evgeni Malkin, who shot successfully past Tomas Vokoun to put the Russians ahead 3-1.

Ovi has Russia fighting for another gold medal.

Ovi has Russia fighting for another gold medal.

The Czechs didn’t go away, scoring with about five minutes remaining to make it 3-2. But after the Czechs pulled the goalie, Russia’s Pavel Datsyuk scored on the empty net with assists from Malkin and Ovechkin. Russia defeated the Czechs 4-2.

The hit that Ovechkin made on Jagr kept the Russians in the lead. Had the hit not occurred, the Czechs would have scored, and instead of the game being 3-2, it would have been 2-2. Who knows who would have won the game then?

Thus Ovechkin’s hit ultimately created the situation that gave the Russians the match. Now Russia has a bye through the quarterfinals as a result of the victory and winning Group B.

Throughout the Olympics, there has been criticism of Ovechkin’s ability to show a clutch performance. Nonetheless, Ovechkin’s significant role in the win against the Czech Republic ought to hush the critics now. I wonder how Mike Milbury feels now.

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