The Plus Minus: Star players rise or underperform in the playoffs

The first round of the playoffs always brings out the most excitement. Star players rise or underperform and ordinary “checkers” can become heroes. This week Marner takes a leap forward, Zach Hyman is he the most likeable guy in the NHL? And Alex Ovechkin is a total poser.

The Plus

I think it’s fair to say that number sixteen Mitch Marner has stamped his name on this team. Game one the kid wins it with a clutch penalty shot in Boston’s hostile TD Garden (Toronto Dominion still makes me laugh). Game three back in Toronto Mitch Marner set up numerous chances near the net leading to Auston Matthews getting on the board and the Leafs in the lead. In the final seconds he sprawled out to block two shots in the dying seconds. A time where, for Leafs fans, the puck usually goes in. It’s a turning point for Mitch in his young career as not only the best player in blue and white but in the top tier of the league, he’s undeniable.

Another young buck earning his milk and cookies is fellow GTA native Zach Hyman. I said he’d have to be huge in this series for Leafs to contend. He is, knocking down Frankenstein (Chara), driving the puck to the net, battling for every puck he can possibly get to. That’s hockey. He’s even inspiring the likes of Nylander and Matthews to try hard, we have a big fat chance here. I think Zach Hyman’s name should be thrown into the hat for a shot at the “C”. As hard nosed as he is on the ice, off the ice he’s a real beauty. Publishing children’s books and regularly active over at Sick Kids Hospital, how do you not love this guy.

The Minus

Now I have to go here, I loathe Alex Ovechkin. I’ve loathed him since his tinted visor days in the world juniors when Canada pounded him and his arrogant Russian teammates into submission for gold. I’ve despised him since his “hot stick” soccer like antics in his younger days.

In recent years after how many lectures from great coaches and veteran players he became less hatable and grew into an alright guy.

I know we’re starved for the old guard tough guy stuff but please don’t abuse the term tough guy term by associating it with Alexander Ovechkin. I call him a poser. I don’t give two drops in the woods what anyone thinks. Maybe a lot of the fans are too young to remember what a tough leader is but he ain’t it.

Last night a young Russian, scratch that, a rookie player Andrei Svechnikov, 20, foolishly challenged Ovechkin, mid thirties, to a scrap. It didn’t end well for the kid. Those who follow international hockey know that the European federations don’t allow fighting. In fact, only Canada does, god bless this country. However Svechnikov’s lack of experience in throwing the dukes made an already unfair fight a beating. Now I know he was looking for it but Ovechkin looked all too happy to get the gloves off. Call it being frustrated or whatever you want, I call it picking your spots. If it were say, Ferland on the Hurricanes who challenged Ovechkin instead, I see a very different outcome. One in which Ovechkin skates away scared and Tom Wilson comes to his aide. For the Svechnikov kid, like Don Cherry said “you play with bull you get the horns”. Yes, however, this Ovechkin as a tough guy thing is the only “bull” I smell around here.