Who can stop Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin? According to Ovechkin, maybe Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner.
Ovechkin has suggested that someone – NHL hire ups? TV execs? The refs? — conspired against the Capitals, who lost 5-0 to the New York Rangers Monday night in Game 7 of their first round series. It was the fourth time in Ovechkin’s otherwise brilliant career that his team has lost a Game 7 at home. After the game, Ovechkin was still smarting about Game 6, a 1-0 New York win. In that game, the Rangers were not assessed any penalties. In a Russian-language interview after Game 7, Overchkin said:
“The refereeing… You understand it yourself. How can there be no penalties at all (on one team) during the playoffs?
“I am not saying there was a phone call from (the league), but someone just wanted Game 7. For the ratings. You know, the lockout, escrow, the League needs to make profit… I don’t know whether the refs were predisposed against us or the League. But to not give obvious penalties (against the Capitals), while for us any little thing was immediately penalized…”
Ovechkin gets somewhat of a pass on this: he was understandably frustrated. Washington’s post-season failures are threatening to overwhelm the narrative of his career. But … wow. Pro sports leagues hate conspiracy theories. The urban legend that the NBA rigged the 1985 draft lottery so that the New York Knicks could draft Patrick Ewing always irks commissioner David Stern. For one of the league’s top attractions to touch this third rail, even if it was a heat-of-the-moment reaction, certainly sent shudders through the NHL offices. Which, incidentally, are in New York. Hmmm.
Just kidding. The Rangers simply outclassed the Caps. Ovechkin doesn’t look good, complaining about the refs after his team got walloped, after she scored just one goal in the series. And the NHL got lucky here. Instead of obsessing over a possible conspiracy, most hockey fans — and even non-hockey fans — are chatting about Boston’s incredible comeback victory in Game 7 over Toronto.