Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
On Saturday night, two of the greatest scorers of all time matched up. They’re similar players: elite snipers from Eastern Europe with innumerable fans but many critics. In 2001, the Washington Capitals gave Jaromir Jagr the largest contract in NHL history: seven years, $77 million. In 2008, the Washington Capitals gave Alex Ovechkin the largest contract in NHL history: 13 years, $124 million. For Caps fans, however, their feelings toward each are starkly different; they hate Jagr and they love Ovechkin.
In his latest return to Verizon Center, Jagr — like his hair — was majestic. He led the Devils comeback, scoring a goal and picking up two assists, including the primary on the game winner. All night, he faced boos from the 18,506 red-clad people, who haven’t forgotten his disastrous two and a half years in Washington.
“There was a couple ‘Zoo-by!” he joked, referring to linemate Dainius Zubrus. “Oh yeah, it was ‘Zooby!’
“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Jagr continued. “Once you play hockey you’re kind of in the game so much you don’t even hear it. You concentrate on the game so much you don’t even hear it.”
At 41-years-old, Jagr has 13 goals this season, on track for his best season since returning from his KHL respite in 2011. On Saturday, his tied Mark Messier for 7th all-time on the goal scoring list with third period power play tally.
“He’s a great player, great person,” Jagr said of Messier. “He accomplished a lot in the NHL. To be able to tie him is a great honor.”
Ovechkin, too, just hit a milestone, scoring his 400th career goal Friday. So what does Jagr think of the fantastic year Ovechkin — who netted his 30th goal in 34 games Saturday — is having?
“He’s hot,” Jagr told me. “He needed one opportunity to score and he got it.”
“His shot — he doesn’t hesitate a second,” the mullet man continued, getting analytical. “He’s shooting, he’s in the zone. He’s got a lot of confidence in his shooting and he’s just waiting for the opportunity to score. I remember those years when I was hot, I was shooting everything. I don’t have it anymore, but that’s the way he plays. He’s using whatever he’s got. That’s a great shot. He’s very danger one-on-one. The defense, they have to back up a little bit. If you’re gonna step on him he might go around you. You kinda give him the shot, but his shot is so good he can score from that shot.”