Before the Caps-Pens series, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen sat down with Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and asked him about the game’s two biggest superstars, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. The captains will play against each other in the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Penguins won that series in seven games.
“Both guys love the microscope and love being under pressure, and both guys seem to elevate their game when they play against each other,” Gretzky told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “But that’s natural. Everybody has a lot of pride as an athlete and when you’re an elite athlete and you play head to head against a guy who is your peer, there is more of a motivation factor. I anticipate both players raising their game to another level.”
Gretzky also addressed Ovechkin’s legacy. While the Russian machine has managed to win the Richard Trophy six times and be a four-time MVP, Ovechkin has not won the Stanley Cup in his 10-year NHL career, never making it past the second round of the playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin is one of the best hockey players in the world because of his size, conditioning, and talent, but Ovechkin’s intense desire to win is just as important. Capitals fans have seen Ovechkin’s passion ever since his first goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005. As he’s gotten older, Ovechkin’s enthusiasm has grown to include his teammates’ accomplishments as well.
The Capitals came out flying in the first period, and their captain led the way. Alex Ovechkin levied five huge hits in 6:02 of ice time. Thirty-one percent of the game’s first period hits were from the Russian machine alone.
His hardest body bam of the period was on Flyers center Ryan White. As White reeled in a loose puck along the boards, Ovechkin nailed him in the neutral zone. Ovechkin hit White so hard, the dude’s helmet spun around and covered his face.
Ever since the playoffs started, TJ Oshie has been using a new Bauer Supreme 1S stick, migrating over from the Warrior brand. But it’s not just any Bauer twig. Oshie has been using one of Alex Ovechkin’s sticks from his personal collection.
I know this because RMNB reader @labattadm sent us a photo of the Capitals stick rack from Game One.
Monday night during Game Three, Alex Ovechkin scored two goals and tallied an assist on a John Carlson power play marker. The three points gave Ovechkin 74 in his postseason career, giving the Great Eight sole possession of the franchise lead. Ovechkin, who now owns almost every major Capitals record, has two more postseason points than the previous record-holder, Dale Hunter.
Hunter, a 19-year veteran and a successful junior hockey league bench boss, coached Ovechkin during the 2011-12 season. He also is the only Capitals captain to take the team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
This record must have meant a lot to Ovechkin, right?
At first, it all went according to plan. The house lights went down at exactly 7 PM. The arena lit up in a sea of orange and white lights glimmering off commemorative wristbands. A tribute to the recently deceased Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers in 1967 and had owned the team ever since, played on the big screen. All of Wells Fargo Center, from the seating bowl to the benches to the press box, applauded a great owner. Then Kate Smith and Lauren Hart sang their trademark “God Bless America” duet. Within a minute of puck drop, the Flyers had the first goal, wildly sliding into the boards in celebration. The roar from the fans was booming. This was their night for their owner.
“Ed was a dynamic visionary who turned Philadelphia into one of the great hockey towns in the world,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said before the game in a heartfelt press conference. “He believed in excellence — and in this team, the Flyers.”
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has led the NHL in power-play goals over the last four seasons (19 in 2015-16, 25 in 2014-15, 24 in 2013-14, 16 in 2012-13). Oodles of those goals have been off his one-timer from the left circle, an Ovi Shot From The Ovi Spot. This is not a secret. Twenty nine teams know about this technique and every single one of them has a plan for it.
Which is why Ovi’s second-period power-play goal against the Flyers on Saturday was so curious.