For Alexander Ovechkin, physical play is both a gift and a curse: His devastating hits make him the NHL's most unique superstar, but his penchant for reckless play also makes him one of its most dangerous players. Just ask Brian Campbell. The Blackhawks defenseman suffered a broken clavicle (and busted ribs) after Ovie shoved him from behind during yesterday's Caps-Hawks matinee. Ovechkin was summarily ejected (and just received a two-game suspension), immediately reopening the NHL's most polarizing debate: Is Ovechkin a dirty player? We rated the most questionable hits of his career and provided video evidence to let you decide...

VICTIM: DANIEL BRIERE, BUFFALO SABRES
DATE: 12/2/2006
PUNISHMENT: Five minutes for boarding, game misconduct; $1,000 fine
Ovie said: "He got turned around and I hit him. I didn't want to give him some injury. It was an accident."
Complex says: Ovechkin's rep as a dirty player really began during his second year in the league with this cheap shot on Briere. We're all for smushing from behind (word to Ronnie), but this one was straight reckless.
OVIE RATING [1 (clean) to 5 (dirtiest)]:
hockey5

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: ROB NIEDERMAYER, ANAHEIM DUCKS
DATE: 12/8/2006
PUNISHMENT: None
Ovie said: Nothing.
Complex says: Sorry, dude. Keep your head up.
OVIE RATING:
hockey1

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: VALENTIN WIRZ, SWITZERLAND
DATE: 5/6/2007 (IIHF World Championships)
PUNISHMENT: Five minutes for hit to the head, game misconduct; one-game suspension
Ovie said: "As I left the penalty box, the opponent was skating towards me. I did not move in his direction whatsoever, otherwise the impact would have been much harder. I saw him only at the last moment, because before I left the penalty box I was watching what was happening on the ice. He was but a meter from me. I had nowhere to go."
Complex says: Ovie is just as mean when he laces up for Mother Russia—maybe meaner (ask Jagr). He claimed that the collision above was an accident, but it sure didn't look like one. Shades here of Matt Cooke's recent hit on Marc Savard. At least Wirz had the puck, though.
OVIE RATING:
hockey3

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: DUSTIN BROWN, L.A. KINGS
DATE: 11/20/2008
PUNISHMENT: Two minutes for interference
Ovie said: Nothing.
Complex says: When The Russian Machine is driving to the net, it really doesn't matter what's in his path. If you watch the full play, you can see that Ovie's aggravated at Brown as the play develops. That definitely implies premeditation and motive.
OVIE RATING:
hockey2

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: JAMIE HEWARD, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
DATE: 1/1/2009
PUNISHMENT: None
Ovie said: "I saw him and he turned around and ... I didn't mean to hit him. It was an accident and I'm very sorry. I never want to hurt somebody, especially my old teammate. It's hard and I'm very sorry, but it's a game and it's a moment. He turns and I have speed..."
Complex says: The outcome of this hit was certainly brutal—it ended Heward's career—but it seems more the product of bad timing and bad luck than a particularly dirty play. More of a side shot than a from-behind one.
OVIE RATING:
hockey2

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: SERGEI GONCHAR, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
DATE: 5/8/2009
PUNISHMENT: None
Ovie said: "Yeah, it probably was knee on knee—I tried to hit him with my shoulder and he just moved left (into) the same spot. I don't know what's going to happen, but I didn't want to hit him. I wanted to hit him, but I don't want hurt him, especially knee on knee."
Complex says: This knee-on-knee shot from last year's epic Caps-Penguins series left Gonchar injured and Pens fans howling. Ovie clearly extends his right leg out to catch his countryman, which makes it pretty dirty to us.
OVIE RATING:
hockey4

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: PATRICK KALETA, BUFFALO SABRES
DATE: 11/25/2009
PUNISHMENT: Five minutes for boarding, game misconduct; $200 fine
Ovie said: "I just go take a hit and (Kaleta) just fell into the boards. Max, it's got to be 2 minutes."
Complex says: Here's another "more-from-the-side-than-from-behind" shot. Couldn't have chosen a better victim, either. Snicker.
OVIE RATING:
hockey2

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: RICH PEVERLEY, ATLANTA THRASHERS
DATE: 10/22/2009
PUNISHMENT: Two minutes for tripping; $2,500 fine
Ovie said: Nothing.
Complex says: Ovie haters: "Slew foot!" Ovie apologists: "Accident!" We're on the fence on this one.
OVIE RATING:
hockey2

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VICTIM: TIM GLEASON, CAROLINA HURRICANES
DATE: 11/30/2009
PUNISHMENT: Five minutes for kneeing, game misconduct; two-game suspnesion
Ovie said: "I don't want to try dirty hits to make people get hurt, but sometimes people turn back or turn right away so I don't have time to realize to stop. It's pretty hard when you are skating fast and the guys just turn. What can you do?"
Complex says: Ovie ended up hurting himself in this collision with Gleason. Karma for leading with his knee again? Maybe.
OVIE RATING:
hockey4

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE COMPLEX SPORTS POSTS...