Beninati: Ovechkin-Svechnikov fight 'was not a mugging'

Chris Lingebach
April 16, 2019 - 3:44 pm

Those who have criticized Alex Ovechkin for knocking out Carolina's Andrei Svechnikov Monday night probably haven't spent too much time watching hockey, Caps play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati contends.

Longtime hockey fans watching the fight between Ovechkin and Svechnikov, which broke out in the first period of Game 3 of the first-round matchup between the Caps and Hurricanes, understood the rules of engagement were followed properly. Others saw it as a 33-year-old man beating up on a 19-year-old kid.

Beninati, during a 106.7 The Fan appearance with Chad Dukes Tuesday, was asked for his reaction to some of the blowback Ovechkin's received.

"I'll start by saying this is just one person's opinion," Beninati prefaced. "Being around the last season obviously, because Svechnikov's only played this year as his rookie year in the NHL, the one thing I will say to you, Chad, is that I get the impression that Andrei Svechnikov is a young player who is going to be an outstanding player. He's already outstanding.

"He is a player who is well put together for a 19-year-old. This is not a fledgling little child that was beaten upon last night. If that's the narrative people are playing, that's wrong. He's strong. He's powerful."

"He also likes to chirp, which a lot of young players do, and a lot of veteran players do," he said. "By 'chirp' I mean try and get under people's skin – a little extra stick jab here, a little elbow there, a little taunting word there – and when you do that, you are going to be pissing people off and he pissed the wrong person off last night."

"I will respectfully understand every comment coming from the Carolina side and the Carolina head coach, of whom I have enormous respect," Beninati said. "But this was not someone jumping someone, this was not a mugging. This was two people squaring off, looking at each other eye to eye and saying, 'Are we doing this? Yes? Go!'

"Anybody who is going to insinuate anything other than that, I don't know if you've watched the game or watched the sport, or watched that particular incident the right way. Unfortunately, this young man put himself in a position where he was going to have to speak up or shut up. And he did, and he was throwing punches, and unfortunately for Andrei, he doesn't know how to throw punches yet in the NHL.

"There was no defense there," he added. "He was in a bad, bad spot and he paid a price."

Immediately after the game, Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour walked a fine line between understanding the circumstances that preceded the fight and outright condemning Ovechkin.

"I just heard Ovi talk about it," Brind'Amour said. "He said our guy challenged him, so if that's the case, it's a little different. But if you watch the video, because I've got to watch it, he slashes him twice, Ovi. Whack, whack. And then Svech gives him back. I don't know if there’s words exchanged, but one guy's gloves comes off way first and that's Ovi's, it's not our guy's."

"It's a little bit frustrating because he got hurt and it's his first fight," he said. "He's played 90 games. He's never fought in his life and I'm pretty sure Ovi knew that. That stuff bothers me, but it's done."

Ovechkin was contrite for his involvement in the fight, but made clear Svechnikov asked him to fight.

"First of all, I hope he's okay," Ovechkin said afterward. "I'm not a big fighter and he's the same. He asked me to fight and I said 'let's go, yeah.' I hope he's okay. You don't want to see a guy get hurt or something."

Everyone's playing their role according to plan, including Caps coach Todd Reirden, who elevated the gamesmanship with this subtle little dig at Brind'Amour Tuesday afternoon.

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