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Don’t blame Alex Ovechkin for the injury to Andrei Svechnikov, blame fighting in the NHL

Don’t blame Alex Ovechkin for the injury to Andrei Svechnikov, blame fighting in the NHL

Monday’s Game 3 in Raleigh had an ugly end for the Capitals, but the start was just as ugly for everyone watching. Early in the first period Alex Ovechkin and Andrei Svechnikov dropped the gloves and Ovechkin dropped Svechnikov soon after. Ovechkin connected with a punch and Svechnikov went down hard to the ice, hitting his head on the ice as he fell. He had to be helped to his knees and off the ice. He did not return to the game.

Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour told the media on Tuesday that Svechnikov went to the hospital on Monday and is in the NHL’s concussion protocol. He is not expected to play in Game 4.

You never want to see a player injured, especially a 19-year-old kid. It was tough to watch and an unfortunate result of the fight. But because it was such a cringe-worthy moment, Ovechkin has faced some criticism for participating in the fight in the first place. A lot of this has to do with Brind’Amour fanning the flames of what is essentially a non-controversy by disputing Ovechkin’s account of what happened.

While Ovechkin said Svechnikov asked to fight, Brind’Amour said, “If you watch the video, because I’ve got to watch it, he slashes him twice, Ovi. Whack, whack. And then Svech gives him back. I don’t know if there’s words exchanged, but one guy’s gloves comes off way first and that’s Ovi’s, it’s not our guy’s. It’s a little bit frustrating because he got hurt and it’s his first fight. He’s played 90 games, he’s never fought in his life and I’m pretty sure Ovi knew that.”

Brind’Amour doubled down on Tuesday as he told the media, “There’s two versions going around," seemingly calling into question Ovechkin’s contention that Svechnikov asked for the fight.

It’s fair to hate what happened to Svechnikov. It’s fair to wish he never got hurt. But it’s not fair to blame the incident on Ovechkin.

For those “hot takes” out there saying what Ovechkin did was assault, maybe the sport of hockey isn’t for you. A lot of sports, in fact, may not be for you.

Yes, punching a person in real life is considered assault. So is body-checking. So is hitting a person with a wooden stick. So is a football tackle, a basketball charge, a pitcher beaning a batter, etc. As a society, we have decided that during a professional sports competition, we will accept a different standard of behavior. We do not get to pick and choose when that applies and when it doesn’t.

Brind’Amour’s account of what happened as he describes it just is not accurate.

Here’s a replay of the fight and the events that preceded it.

Both players are engaged with one another before the fight. Who slashes whom, who shoves whom, is irrelevant. The notion that Brind’Amour doesn’t know if words were exchanged means he either did not watch the video or did not pay attention to it. Clearly, they are talking with one another before they drop the gloves. 

As for what was said, all we know is what Ovechkin told us and that is that Svechnikov challenged him. If you decide you do not believe that, that’s fine. I don’t speak Russian and I’m not a lip reader. Having said that, you cannot watch the video and tell me that either player was unwilling or surprised when the fight started. They both knew what was coming and they both consented to it.

Yes, Ovechkin is listed at 235 pounds, Svechnikov at 195. Yes, Svechnikov is young, but he is an adult playing in the NHL. He is responsible for himself on the ice. He did not get jumped, he did not get sucker punched. He knew what he was getting into. At least, he thought he did. He got injured as a result and it was horrifying to watch, but you cannot blame Ovechkin for accepting the challenge.

So long as fighting is legal in the NHL, mismatches are going to happen. Knockouts are going to happen. If you don’t like that, blame the fact that fights are still a part of the NHL, not Ovechkin.

I am not arguing whether fights should or should not be taken out of the game.

All I am saying is that if you cringed when you saw Svechnikov go down on Monday, that has more to do with the fight itself than the man throwing the punches.

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

SEMIFINALS:
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH:
Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

GOLD MEDAL MATCH:
Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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USA Today Sports images

The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.

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