Last night I sat with two local rec hockey players and we talked about Ilya Kovalchuk's pathetic defensive effort. Ilya has improved on the defensive side of the puck since being named team Captain one year ago, but after watching the goal highlights on www.NHL.com I decided I just couldn't let this pass without commenting on it.
If you watch the 1st highlight clip you will see Matt Moulson stop near the top of the Thrashers defensive zone. Kovalchuk cruises in, circles below him and then just skates away. Now I don't expect Kovalchuk go to pull a "full Ovechkin" on this guy, but I do expect him to stop and put his stick and body in the passing/shooting lane. Because Ilya just skates right past him, Moulson has all the time in the world to stop, wind up and pick his target--and he scores.
The 3rd Moulson goal is also assisted by "defensive indifference" from the Captain Kovalchuk. Watch the video clip and once again you'll see the Islander (Streit) with the puck up at the top of the Thrashers defensive zone. You'll see Kovalchuk enter the picture but then he just peels away without applying any sort of pressure on the puck carrier. Once again you'll see the Islander with lots of time, wind up and fire a shot--which is then tipped in front by Matt Moulson again
to break a 2-2 tie to give the Isles a 2 goal lead in the 3rd period. That goal proves to be the game winner (oops, my bad!).
I know that Ilya takes pride in being Captain and a team leader, but last night he really let down his teammates and fans with his play. Kovalchuk is big, fast and highly skilled--he needs to make life a bit more difficult for opposing players in the defensive zone. It will increase the team's chances of winning each night.