Morning Cup-a-Joe (1/31/07)

cupajoe.jpegThesis: In his volume of natural ability, in the totality of his treachery, in his alternating sublime and show-stopping showcasing of sick skill, in his penchant, while sharing a sheet of ice with world-class, household name talent, for marginalizing them to the point of being away-from-the-action afterthoughts, and in this his January 2007, mid-winter’s full bloom declaration of dominance, a virtuosity free of vanity and instead organic in its ‘Oh My God!’-generating quality, Alexander Semin is, at the precocious age of 22, the most gorgeously gifted and dynamic offensive force ever to wear a Washington Capitals’ sweater.
And it isn’t even a close call.
Bondra: the north-south blazer with a great gift for scoring goals in bunches but rarely a game-dictating force, principally because he was, at best, an average passer.
Gartner: a North American version of Bondra.
Gustafsson: more a distributor than goal scorer.
Ovechkin: the complete power package of brilliance, and a wonderful compliment to his countryman Sasha Semin, but while a wonderful stickhandler in his own right, doesn’t rise to the rarefied realm of dastardly dangling that Alex II does.
The best direct comparison, in my humble judgment, is with another envy-inducing Russian set of hands: Alexei Kovalev.
One of my greatest frustrations with the MSM — and local MSM especially — is its conspicuous failure to chronicle an athlete’s arrival at greatness. And so in Semin’s case, what we’ve more or less seen in MSM coverage of him this season goes like this: (Ashburn, Va.) September — “Skilled Sourpuss Arrives in D.C. at Long Last.” An October hat trick was largely ignored, (the Skins were playing) when it should have sounded a stud’s alarm. Later the goals continued to pile up, and still we learned nothing new of their genesis.
To some extent, reporters are surrendering to Semin’s linguistic isolation, as if translators aren’t available. But let’s say for the sake of argument that he’s prickly with the press and altogether aloof. We hockey fans in this town haven’t seen the likes of his virtuosity, as ours, ever. There’s a remarkable story to tell about this kid’s game, file after file filled by inventories of his prodigy. Someone in the press with a fire lit under his hind quarters would go out and get it for us.
Or I will.

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3 Responses to Morning Cup-a-Joe (1/31/07)

  1. Hockey Amor says:

    It feels a bit like cheating but at last night’s game in Ottawa, I found myself loving Semin’s moves more than Ovechkin’s plays. He made a few high-risk dangles and pulled them off. What a brilliant risk-taker. Early in the game he stole the puck from a D behind the net and quickly shot on goal. Breathtaking. Also, at the last game here (Jan 16) he also proved to me that he’s a brilliant boards man, controlling the puck like Dahlen used to and then coming out from behind the net to shoot. Most of all, I love his laser wrist shot, top corner always. He’s becoming a force.

  2. Many thanks for these sage observations. Your reflection about Sasha’s Dahlen-like ability along the boards is especially insightful. It’s true, and it’s fairly amazing in light of Semin’s build, which is of the wiry variety, whereas Ulf was comparatively bulky.
    I watched Sasha a great deal at last September’s camp, and I commented to another OFBer at the time that I thought he’d quickly develop a decent reputation defensively, not because he’s first back in his own end (he seldom is), but rather because his sniper hands are especially adept at pickpocketing. I saw it all camp long, and it was as dazzling as his wrist shot. I think he’ll develop this more fully, more lethally, in the years ahead.
    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  3. CapitalGuy says:

    Excellent insights, great topic. Semin the enigmatic magician. Ovechkin, like Bondra, is a marvelous north-south player, but one that passes well, hits and is less streaky. But muscular north-south becomes predictable. We fans know what he will do. So does the opponent. We watch that war with pleasure. But with Semin, who knows? He mixes east-west, north-south, circles, dekes, juts, hesitations, fakes and more. Improvisations abound. His slappers and wristers surprise us, again and again. Semin, the enigmatic magician. Like a dream first date – every shift.

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