Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Bum is on the Swedish

Contrary to popular belief, the best hockey player in the world does not call Washington home. Or Pittsburgh. Or even Calgary. Not in my eyes anyway.

Sure, you can't go wrong with Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Jarome Iginla. They are incredible hockey players. Ovechkin is the most explosive, most physical superstar I've seen since a young Eric Lindros … only with an even better shot. Crosby and Malkin are Lemieux and Jagr reborn. And Iginla is just a flat-out stud. But for my money, the best player in hockey is quite possibly the most consistent two-way player in the sport … a man from Detroit by way of Sweden.

Last year, while the rest of world was (rightfully) slobbering over Ovechkin and Crosby taking the mantle and making runs in the playoffs, I was watching as Zetterberg led the Red Wings right through the league, right through the playoffs and right to the Stanley Cup, declaring him the best player to lace up the skates. I mean, in last year's playoffs, the guy was just unreal, scoring, winning faceoffs, backchecking — doing it all.

And then this year, Ovechkin somehow took his game to an even higher level. The man is going to score well over 50 goals, outshoot the rest of the league by a million shots and carry the Caps to one of the top seeds in the East. I was ready to crown him the king of the ice, just like the rest of the world already has. I had forgotten about Henrik Zetterberg, about the Red Wings really, because, like most of the media, I tend to ignore a lot of hockey played west of Pittsburgh.

Then last night, I watched as the Flyers, even when somehow miraculously up 2-0, were getting completely owned by Detroit, and the lasting image that stands out is this:

Stupid doesn't do that play any justice at all. The puck popped loose in Detroit's zone because Zetterberg made a ridiculous backcheck, stole the puck, got it to his teammate and then finished the play off at the other end for the game-winning goal.

And that's the thing about Zetterberg: He plays both ends of the ice each and every shift. Sure, Ovechkin and Crosby show flashes of that, but no one does it as consistently, or as well, as Henrik Zetterberg. I know he doesn't have the outlandish numbers like the other guys, but that's because he doesn't have to. He has players like Franzen, Hossa, Datsyuk and the like to spread the scoring around. But in my opinion, there isn't a more talented two-way player in hockey anywhere.

As for the game itself, the score is incredibly deceiving. The Flyers were completely outplayed by Detroit, evident by Detroit's 48-26 advantage in shots. If it wasn't for Marty Biron, this game would have been a whole hell of a lot uglier. Yeah, the goal he gave up to Pavel Datsyuk was pretty weak, but I'm not faulting a goaltender who stopped 45 shots against the best team in hockey. The Red Wings are just better than the Flyers, plain and simple, and as much as I love guys like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Kimmo Timonen, Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Lidstrom are better than anyone who wears the Orange and Black. It just doesn't seem fair.

Oh, and I didn't watch a second of the Sixers because I was out drinking and watching the Flyers and then went to sleep. But apparently this happened:

Well done, Andre. Well done.

BallHype: hype it up!

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