MONTREAL - He barrels along the fine line like a locomotive and, until Monday night, managed to somehow keep the wheels on the tracks as he veered dangerously close to derailing.
What got Alexander Ovechkin in trouble and suspended for the Washington Capitalsí next two games is what makes him the NHLís most dynamic presence.
There are many players in the league who play close to the edge, but they are clustered in the lower regions of the depth chart with considerably smaller bank accounts (Ovechkin will forfeit $98,844.16 for the transgression).
None are arguably the NHLís best player.
Ovechkin is part scalpel and part sledgehammer and lately heís been more crusher than rusher.
The starís rap sheet has been growing at a steady pace, his list of opponents splattered into the boards or left writhing on the ice, adding the name of Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason to the list of victims Monday.
Ovechkin got kicked out of a game for hitting Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres from behind last week, slew footed Rich Peverley of the Atlanta Thrashers (which earned him a $2,500 fine) in October and knocked Sergei Gonchar of the Pittsburgh Penguins out with a knee-on-knee hit in last springís playoffs.
Singularly, the hits were borderline malicious and the two game misconducts he received for the latest two hits, on Kaleta and Gleason, represent their seriousness.
Taken collectively, they represent a nasty body of evidence and Monday nightís collision with Gleason (funny, but there have hardly been any updates about his condition) was finally one too many.
The league had to say enough is enough and now, as a repeat offender, the next time something like the hit on Gleason or Kaleta happens - and it will - Ovechkin will be sitting a little longer.
Ovechkin offered his regrets and said he was glad Gleason wasnít injured.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said Ovechkin has to rein his recklessness, which is what you would expect a coach to say after seeing his meal ticket locking knees on open-ice hits and running people into the boards.
But the recklessness, that speeding along the edge, is what makes Ovechkin what he is.
"Why do I have to listen to somebody who say, ĎHey, you have to change your game, and somebody going to kill you,"í Ovechkin told reporters in Washington Tuesday. "Well, nobody going to kill me. I just play my game and I just enjoy my time and I enjoy my life. Itís me, and it is what it is."
Ovie being Ovie?
Iím with him on that.
If he reels in his seek-and-destroy tactics, he takes away from one of the things that makes him so wonderful to watch and gives him the opportunity to score as often as he does. He creates his own space in his own unique way. The truly great players usually intimidate with their talent, backing off opponents with the fear of getting too close and being burned. Ovechkin can do that.
But he can also do it with a punishing physical game in which few 60-goal scorers are willing to engage. Old-school power forwards might have done it by dropping their gloves. Ovechkin does it by dropping players.
He knows who is going to be on the ice with him, put out to stop him. He targets them rather than the other way around. I once watched him run over defenceman Zdeno Chara behind the net, which is kind of like running up Mount Everest.
But Ovechkin knew Chara was going to be on the ice for most of the night against him and he gave Chara a lesson in what it was going to be like around the puck.
Ovechkin said he isnít going to change.