Is Alex Semin being held to a higher standard than other Caps players?

My brother Pat wasn’t happy with Alex Ovechkin’s effort defensively on the Rangers first goal in Game 1 of their second round playoff series. He tweeted, “The listless, one hand on the stick effort in support of his D man who was clearly beaten is not really my thing.”

I hadn’t noticed this during the game. I was mostly focused on watching Artem Anisimov out-muscle Mike Green. But I tend to agree with my brother on this one. Where was the Ovechkin that seems to relish crushing opposing players with an explosive hit? This would have been a great time for one of those. At the very least, just a solid shoulder or a strong poke check might have done the job. I can’t help but wonder if Ovechkin would have had more spring in his step had this instead been an opportunity for a big play in the offensive zone.

Artem Anisimov scores in Game 1

Somewhat related to this, Alexander Semin has been demoted to the fourth line for Game 2.

Semin took two penalties in Game 1, one for unwisely retaliating after being slashed by a Ranger player and another for tripping a player while forechecking. The second penalty didn’t bother me much, as it appeared he was going for the puck and got too aggressive.

Caps’ Coach Dale Hunter told reporters regarding Semin, “We need him to score goals for us, we need him to play good on the power play.” (Note: Semin leads the team in both goals and power play goals so far in the playoffs.)

As I said via Twitter earlier today, I don’t care a great deal either way about Semin’s move to the fourth line. Maybe it will pay off through a more balanced set of lines or perhaps it will motivate Semin and we’ll see a big game from him. However, I do find it odd that Semin gets banished to the fourth line, while other highly-skilled offensive players on the team often don’t when they’re guilty of less-than-stellar play. Nor do I think they should necessarily.

For example, Nicklas Backstrom’s lack of hustle cost the Caps a goal in Game 6 against the Bruins (I’m not talking about the game-winning goal that was a result of his turnover and was easier to forgive). Marcus Johannson has been giving the puck away far too often these playoffs with careless passes. Ovechkin took a bad penalty Saturday against the Rangers for tripping, put in a questionable defensive effort on the Ranger goal highlighted above and was kept off the score sheet like Semin, but there’s no way Ovi or Backstrom is going to get demoted to the fourth line—and for good reason. Yet Semin does?

Maybe there’s more to the Semin story than I’m aware of as a spectator who isn’t in the locker room, but the higher standard Semin seems to be held to confuses me. Even the league seemed to have something against the guy when he was the first 40 goal scorer I know of to be left off the All-Star ballot the next season (I don’t mean Semin just didn’t make the game…I mean he scored 40 goals and then you couldn’t even vote for him unless you wrote him in).

NBC’s Pierre McGuire doesn’t give Semin a break, even when he’s scored a goal on more than one occasion right after McGuire calls him out. As NHL.com writer Dave Lozo recently noted, “Alex Semin is the only guy who can score on national TV and have people spend the next 5 minutes questioning why he doesn’t try. Amazing.”

ESPN and Washington Post contributor Neil Greenberg said on Twitter today, “Surprised ppl continue to underappreciate Caps Semin’s contributions beyond points (and off zone penalties). If he walks, tough to replace.” Greenberg also did a statistical analysis last fall about how the criticism of Semin is unfair.

I don’t deny that there are occasions when Semin is—like many players—deserving of some criticism. However, I find it odd that other key Caps make mistakes and it doesn’t become half the story it does when Semin isn’t playing the way people would like him to.

But putting all that aside, if the demotion of Semin to the fourth line for tonight’s game results in a two-goal night, Hunter’s a genius.

About these ads

About Mike Holden

Mike Holden is a blogger and communications professional who also writes at mikeholden.com. He can be found on Twitter at @mikeholden. Read more of his sports writing.

Posted on April 30, 2012, in Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Dark Stranger

    I do say that if Semin had had the type of game that Backstrom had in Game 3 (3 penalties followed by a match penalty and suspended as a result), he would have gotten crucified by our fan base big time. Plus, that would have also tipped the balance for our management not to bring him back to the team under any circumstances.

    The problem with Semin, not having a “great” personality in the view of many. Overall, in life (and not just hockey), the “personality” kids can get away with more at the office and what not. While those who are the poor communicators, like Semin, have to be “better” at their jobs than the more “normal” personalities.

    • Very well put! I agree with you and know other people I’ve talked to about Semin who also agree with you. You can see, in many cases, some correlation between a player’s personality off the ice and the style of hockey of that player plays. (which is a point I tried to make when I was on The Mike Wise Show but Wise’s assistant didn’t understand my point at all and offered a rebuttal to something I actually didn’t even say). I think people see Semin as “nonchalant” when actually it is more related to the fact that he is quirky and introverted. People don’t mind his introversion and quirks when he is producing, but when he’s not producing they turn it into a narrative about him being “lazy” or an “enigma”.

  1. Pingback: What should the Caps do with free agent Alex Semin? « BrooksLaichyear

  2. Pingback: Alexander Semin and Ignoring the 10 Percent

  3. Pingback: Alexander Semin and Ignoring the 10 Percent | Overtime

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: