Alex Ovechkin Injures Gonchar; Was The Hit Dirty?

In one of the most controversial plays of the NHL playoffs last night, Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin made a knee-to-knee collision with Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar went flying and had to be helped off the ice, while Ovechkin earned a two-minute minor penalty.

Gonchar Injury
(Gonchar, seen here not enjoying having experienced the equivalent of getting hit in the knee with a baseball bat while skating.)

The controversy comes because Gonchar’s definitely out for today’s game against Pittsburgh (remember, they’re playing two games in a row on account of Yanni)… and, according to TSN, probably long enough to miss the rest of the playoffs. Ovechkin avoided suspension, but should he have? Judge for yourself with the video after the jump:

As the announcer mentions, Ovechkin and Gonchar are good friends; Ovie even mentioned this during post-game interviews:

It was accident. I’m not the kind of guy who wants to injure a player like this, especially [because] I know Gonch. I tried to hit him with my shoulder and he moved left but his legs were in the same spot.

But at the same time, it’s really tough to tell whether the hit was intentional. That’s not our way of saying “it was definitely an accident;” we mean it’s genuinely difficult to discern. Greg Wyshinski at PUCK DADDY is okay with giving the benefit of the doubt, but - total shock here - Gonchar’s agent doesn’t exactly agree:

”We now have Exhibit A of the extreme double standard that exists in the NHL’s approach to discipline. Alex clearly cuts back with his knee after missing his check with devastating results. But of course, because it’s Alex, its all Sergei’s fault,” Barry told TSN.

”It was a extremely negligent hit and if anyone else in this league does the same we all know they will face serious discipline,” Barry continued. ”Part of being ‘great’ means playing with respect.”

And, um, he’s got a point. Even if the hit wasn’t intentionally dirty, it was certainly reckless. Would the NHL be more disapproving if we weren’t talking about a star player? Well… you’d certainly hope so.

Either way, Ovechkin has got to be on a short leash tonight. One more iffy penalty, and refereees aren’t going to be nearly as forgiving.