Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin of Russia, left, celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers as teammate Nicklas Backstrom of Sweden looks on during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Haraz N. Ghanbari
WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin smiled that gap-toothed smile of his and laughed off Canadian TV analyst Don Cherry's criticism of his exuberant goal celebrations.
"He's a funny guy and old guy. He likes old-fashioned hockey," Ovechkin said Sunday after scoring his NHL-high 46th goal in Washington's 6-2 loss to Florida.
"He's not interesting to me, so he can say whatever he wants. I don't care about him," Ovechkin said.
The league's reigning MVP generally sounded far less upset about the whole thing than Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who fired back at Cherry when asked before the game about the bombastic personality's comments.
"He's a friend of mine. And he's an idol of mine. I mean, I love what Don Cherry has stood for, for 30 years. I just think that even the smartest people in the world are wrong sometimes, and I just thought he was wrong," Boudreau said. "Because he doesn't know Alex like we know Alex."
Prompted by some recent back-and-forth trash talk between Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, Cherry came down on the Russian on Saturday during his "Coach's Corner" segment of "Hockey Night in Canada" on the CBC.
Cherry was critical of the way Ovechkin reacts when he scores, which can include fist pumps, leg kicks and face-first jumps into the glass.
Cherry called that "goofy stuff."
"I'm going to tell you about this guy: He's got a free ride. He runs at guys, does this stuff," Cherry said. "I am predicting somebody's going to get him. And somebody's going to get him good. There's somebody out there - some big defenceman is going to be sitting in the weeds. As he cuts across centre ice, somebody's going to cut him in half."
Video of soccer players celebrating goals was shown, followed by video of Ovechkin.
"Now watch Ovechkin. ... Does he not remind you of a soccer player? And that's what Crosby was talking about. Look at him," Cherry said.
Asked if he was angry about what Cherry said, Ovechkin replied: "No. I just laughed about it. He's funny. In hockey, we need something like that."
Then, noting Cherry's soccer references, Ovechkin added with a mischievous grin: "Maybe Canadians don't have a soccer team. Maybe he's jealous of Russia."
Known for his staunchly pro-Canada stance, Cherry gave a long list of hockey players from that country who should be viewed as role models.
"What I try to do is teach the kids the Canadian way," he said.
Boudreau knows Cherry and his take on things well: Cherry is writing the foreward for Boudreau's autobiography due out later this year.
"As much as I really like the guy, I thought he was wrong," Boudreau said. "He's pro-Canadian, and there's 33 million Canadians that love that, as anybody would. And if I was sitting at home, I'd be going, 'Yeah, yeah, Canada!' But I just happen to be in the same business as him, so I see it a little differently."