Excellent read for the most part...Kelley: Message to Semin
Thursday, May 14, 2009
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Hopefully Alexander Semin learned a few lessons while watching Sidney Crosby from the end of the Capitals' bench.
Memo to Alexander Semin: Next time you decide to put your foot in your mouth make sure it doesn't have Sidney Crosby's No. 87 on it.
There were a great number of reasons the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated you and your Washington Capitals in Game 7 on Wednesday night and moved on to the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference final. Superior goaltending in the pivotal game, along with the kind of maturity that comes with experience, are high on the list, but among the many lessons you and your teammates should learn from this series there are two that should rate high on your personal list:
1) Never call out a player who is skilled, intense, superbly talented and has a hunger to win in ways you have never imagined let alone are likely to learn.
2) If you do, at least raise the level of your game to something other than a remake of The Invisible Man.
Crosby might be "an overrated product of the NHL hype machine" in your mind -- remember when you called him out as such in the early days of the regular season when you were among the league leaders in points? That's fine, you're entitled to your opinion, but if he's "nothing special," what does that make you?
You might not like Sid the Kid and it may be true that your teammate, Alexander Ovechkin, feels the same way, but Ovechkin competed. He'll have his pride intact when he sits in Vegas awaiting his MVP award while knowing that Crosby once again took his team deeper into the playoffs than he did. But you, well, let's look at the lines:
Crosby and Ovechkin come out of this series as the leading point scorers in the playoffs (21 points and both were brilliant in the series, on most nights matching each other goal for goal, point for point and hit for hit (and frankly, overall, Crosby was a little better).
You come out of the series with no goals scored and a cumulative minus-6 on the defensive end.
When it mattered most -- in Game 7 - 'The Kid' had two goals and three points and stuck a dagger into your team's hopes of ever mounting a comeback when he scored that breakaway beauty to officially make the game a rout early in the third period. You were pretty much nailed to the bench by then but that's a great spot from which to see greatness do its thing.
One can't help but hope that you and the rest of the Capitals learn from that because this series was too good, and the hopes for the future of each team is too great, to let your poor series performance and the overall Game 7 performance of your team obscure the facts in evidence.
You see your team -- not necessarily you, but your team -- competed in this series. True, your goaltender Simeon Varlamov and a few others faltered badly at the end, but they competed at an extraordinarily high level. They played to the best of their ability until they had nothing left to give and that was costly but you brought nothing, not at the beginning, the middle or the end.
That's what you and your team need to understand and absorb. Greatness doesn't come just from talent; heck, if that were true, people would still be cheering the San Jose Sharks. Greatness, at least in hockey, comes from being able to lift your game to a place where it hasn't been, maybe even to a place where you never thought it could possibly go.
Crosby and the Penguins did that. They did it in part because they had been where you and your team were and learned how to go even farther. You could see it on the "off" days and the morning skates when Crosby, who had been getting beat on a regular basis on faceoffs, went out with his coaches and started working on specific faceoff techniques. Did you see that Alex? Were you even in the building then?
That's commitment, that's a drive that the great ones -- and you should understand by now that Crosby's greatness is a product of a great deal more than the NHL hype machine -- have inside them.
He brought it -- he brought it every day and every night and in every minute of every game. Can you honestly say the same?
That may not have been the beauty of this series. The raw beauty was the superior play of Crosby and Ovechkin, two totally different players who, when finally matched head-to-head, delivered in ways that sometimes went even beyond the cutting edge of brilliance.
The duo combined for 27 points. That's 27 points in just seven games, 16 goals and 11 assists. They dueled over seven games, three overtimes and through five-one-goal nail-biters and even though the last game was a blowout and, for the Capitals, something of an embarrassment let alone an anti-climax, they never stopped competiting.
In the end, Crosby was better, but not by enough to say he was the deciding figure in the Penguins moving on. That was decided because players like you, Alex, players who have talent but didn't bring passion, delivered a non-performance.
There's a chance, if you're smart, that you can learn from that. You can learn from Ovechkin's relentlessness, Varlamov's competitiveness, Sergei Fedorov's calmness in tight situations and the tenaciousness of role players such as Brooks Laich and Chris Clark. You should also learn from Pittsburgh's Miroslav Satan, a veteran who spent much of the season in the minors because of performance and salary cap issues but performed to the best of his ability when called upon because of injuries and he delivered. You can learn from the Penguin no-names who kept driving the net and keyed the comebacks in overtime when they kept putting pucks on net. Those pucks may have gone in off Washington sticks but they still counted as pivotal goals, goals that turned the series Pittsburgh's way.
But most of all you should learn from Sidney Crosby, who has talent in a range only slightly better than yours but who has drive, determination and dedication that you couldn't begin to match.
Your own coach ended up singing the praises of Crosby when all was said and done and he didn't mince words.
"I always thought he was a great player, but I didn't know how great," Bruce Boudreau said. "He's always on. He doesn't take time off."
Can you say the same, Alex?
If you could, you might have contributed just enough to make a difference because aside from Game 7 these two teams were never separated by more than a single great play.
Crosby delivered more than his share. No hype there. You didn't even come close and your team suffered for it.http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2009/05/14/kelley_semin/