Friday, April 30, 2004
Mogilny in middle of give-and-take
By Rob Parent
Special to ESPN.com
TORONTO -- Alexander Mogilny. Only the most prolific NHL goal scorer to hail from the Motherland. Who could have known he'd also turn out to be one bad, um, Mother Of All Maple Leafs?
"Dirty?" Mogilny responded Thursday with eyes feigned wide after hearing the Flyers' accusatory charge that was just read to him. "Ohmigod!"
Of course, this would offend a courteous, distinguished and softly biting spokesman like Alex. He's 35 now, has played nearly 1,000 NHL games and registered more than 1,000 points.
He shouldn't be slandered like this. All because of his play in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series Wednesday night with those funny Flyers? Those thugs without a collective conscience now crying about him?
"They've been going after me all three games," Mogilny said after a quick skate to get ready for Friday's Game 4, when the Leafs will try to even the series at Air Canada Centre. "Nothing's changed with that. Let them say whatever they say. They are talking all the time. If that's the way they want to change the momentum, that's fine. But you can't intimidate anybody in this game."
Certainly not Mogilny, who arose from the rubble of the first two games in Philadelphia to score his first goal of the series on a breakaway early in Game 3, and then celebrated later by nearly breaking Russian comrade and Flyers defenseman Danny Markov in two with a check from behind.
Or is that just the way they saw things in the visitors' locker room?
"He nearly killed Danny on that hit," Jeremy Roenick said after the Flyers' 4-1 loss to the Leafs Wednesday night. "That was a dangerous hit. Some of their guys who didn't show up in Philly came out with bigger backbones."
Some of the otherwise happier people in the Leafs' locker room took exception to that latter Roenick remark, but Mogilny answered with the customary bemused smirk.
"Every hit is dangerous out there," Mogilny said. "I got laid out by them a couple of times in the first two games. That was dangerous, too. I've been hit a few times by (Roenick). That's dangerous, too. They're all dangerous."
But Alex, about that Markov hit ... ?
"What happened to (Markov)? He tripped and fell, I think," Mogilny deadpanned. "He tripped right in front of me. Went to pick up his stick and tripped."
Ah, so that's it.
Yes, it is seriously ridiculous to single out this relaxed Alex as a headhunter, for this is the same guy who once was dubbed a good gal -- as in Lady Byng, or more specifically, that NHL award winner who is "adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
So what was the Flyers' problem with him, a joke?
"When you lose," Mogilny deadpanned, "you've got to come up with all kinds of stories, sometimes. You know, these hits came to me. I wasn't running around looking for them. I take them myself, too. We're grown men. We give hits and take hits. When somebody runs over you, you want to get back up and give it back, you know?"
Mogilny's right. That Game 3 was quite a game of give and take. For instance, there was the play on which he took another Flyers defenseman, Marcus Ragnarsson, and rolled him into the boards, giving the guy an ouchy leg.
Then later, Ragnarsson answered back so nicely with a two-handed slash right into Mogilny's calf muscle. Now that didn't hurt, did it?
|Alexander Mogilny had the last laugh in Game 3, with a goal and a hard hit on Danny Markov.|
"I feel great," Mogilny said. "He was just doing his job and I was doing mine."
So why all this whining from the other guys? Yo, Philly ... these are the Leafs you're playing. These guys made whining a springtime art form back when you were still trying to figure out why Eric Lindros couldn't buy you a Cup.
Isn't it better just to shut up and enjoy? Or better yet ... to get back to work before the Leafs start to really believe they can get back and win this series?
"There was no hitting in the first two games, but it's coming on," said Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "It's getting better. Not as good as last year but it's getting reckless. It's good for the fans. Not so good for the players, but it's exciting.
"Playing quiet here isn't going to work for us. If we're going to be effective, we have to do a better job of moving the puck. The physicality (Wednesday) night came from us passing the puck to people who were already covered."
Of course, the Maple Leafs had a lot to do with that. Despite people like Joe Nieuwendyk and Owen Nolan out of the lineup (both are expected to miss Game 4, too), the determined Leafs stuck to the Flyers in the defensive zone and gave Ed Belfour enough breathing room to suffocate shots.
And newly inserted forward Wade Belak and Alexei Ponikarovsky were all elbows and shoulders in creating space -- and sparking danger -- at the Flyers' end of the ice.
Down, dirty and quite effective.
"You have to get good minutes from everybody," said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "Lots of times grinders get big minutes. Their defensive play can be better than the higher-end players, and they're important to your team."
Quite so. But when one of those so-called "higher-end" players starts doing a lot of bumping, grinding, pushing, shoving and scoring all in one hellacious, mother of a performance?
Don't you have to take the mojo out of Mogilny with some dirty tactics of your own?
"They've got lists in their locker room just like we do," Hitchcock said. "It's always, 'Let's go after this guy.' Everybody's got guys banged up. So there's guys we're going after the same as they do."
||They've got lists in their locker room just like we do. It's always, 'Let's go after this guy.' Everybody's got guys banged up. So there's guys we're going after the same as they do. ”
||— Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock
Rob Parent of the Delaware County (Pa.) Times is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.