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Sports Stu Cowan: There's no sign of Capitals star Alex Ovechkin slowing down

01:51  25 november  2021
01:51  25 november  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

What's Up, What's Down: Incentivized Ovechkin moves up the ladder

  What's Up, What's Down: Incentivized Ovechkin moves up the ladder It's What's Up, What's Down, which is yet another effort in sports journalism to deliver information through a simple and easily understandable medium. Here we look at the players, teams and things building toward something, and the players, teams, and things accomplishing squat. After matching Brett Hull on the all-time goals list earlier this week, Alexander Ovechkin's first chance to take over sole possession of fourth comes Thursday night versus the Detroit Red Wings. With the way the Washington Capitals sniper is rolling at the moment, perhaps the expectation should be that he'll be able to turn his attention fully to chasing down Jaromir Jagr then.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin shoots the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at Capital One Arena in Washington on Nov 8, 2021. © Provided by The Gazette Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin shoots the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at Capital One Arena in Washington on Nov 8, 2021.

When Alex Ovechkin takes off his helmet, he looks like some of the guys I play old-timers hockey with because of his grey hair and beard.

At age 36, Ovechkin qualifies for old-timers play, but the Washington Capitals’ scoring machine is far from old.

Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Canadiens, Ovechkin ranked third in the NHL scoring race with 15-15-30 totals, trailing only the Edmonton Oilers’ dynamic duo of Leon Draisaitl (18-18-36) and Connor McDavid (12-20-32). Draisaitl is 26 and McDavid is 24. Draisaitl was the only player with more goals than Ovechkin.

Alex Ovechkin career goals and rank on NHL all-time scoring list

  Alex Ovechkin career goals and rank on NHL all-time scoring list Alex Ovechkin continues to move up the charts as he aims for Wayne Gretzky's all-time goals record.The Capitals captain entered the 2021-22 season sitting on 730 career goals. That put him 164 tallies back of Wayne Gretzky's chart-topping 894. There have been questions about whether he can surpass "The Great One's" number as "The Great 8" hits the latter years of his career. But as Gretzky says, he expects him to — and hopes he does — break the all-time record.

Apart from his hair, Ovechkin doesn’t seem to age. He’s sort of like Tom Brady on skates — minus the perfect hair the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 44-year-old quarterback still has.

That’s why there’s a good chance Ovechkin could break Wayne Gretzky’s record for most goals in an NHL career.

Ovechkin, with 745 goals heading into Wednesday’s game, ranks fourth on the all-time list behind the Great One (894), Gordie Howe (801) and Jaromir Jagr (766). One of the most amazing stats in hockey is that if you eliminate all of Gretzky’s goals, he still has more points than any NHL player because of his 1,963 assists, 42 points ahead of Jagr with 1,921.

Ovechkin is in the first season of a five-year, US$47.5-million contract and needs 150 goals to pass Gretzky. He’s on pace to finish this season with 65 goals, which would match his career high set in 2007-08.

Game Day Notebook: GM's positive COVID test is more bad news for Habs

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Are you going to bet against him?

Speaking of contracts, last season marked the end of Ovechkin’s 13-year, US$124-million deal.

“I’m a risk-taker,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said after signing Ovechkin as the cornerstone of the team’s rebuilding plan in 2008 . “And if you’re going to make a long-term investment, who else would you do it with? This takes away any of the issues of how committed we are to winning a Cup, how committed we are to keeping a team together.”

The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup in 2018 and Ovechkin’s contract marked one of the rare times in pro sports that an athlete lived up to his part of such a massive deal. It was the first nine-figure contract in NHL history and it was Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana Nikolaevna Ovechkina , who negotiated most of it with Leonsis.

Canadiens Notebook: Jake Allen happy concussion spotter did his job

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Tatyana was the on-court leader of the Soviet Union basketball teams that won Olympic gold medals at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics (in Montreal), along with one world championship and six European titles as a point guard. She later became president of the Moscow Dynamo women’s basketball team.

Michael Farber wrote another one of his outstanding articles for Sports Illustrated shortly after that Ovechkin contract was signed and asked Tatyana if the deal might temper her son’s enthusiasm for the game.

“Not in two years or five,” she said. “He doesn’t have the stardom disease. People who say these things are jealous.”

Apart from his wicked shot, the thing I enjoy most about watching Ovechkin play is how much fun he has. He still reacts like a little boy after he scores a goal with his missing-tooth smile, and his celebrations with the Stanley Cup were legendary.

“It seems like he’s still got a tremendous passion for the game,” Canadiens goalie Jake Allen said. “Passion for scoring goals and playing the game and sometimes that fades away for guys when they get older. I don’t know him at all, but just watching him you can still see that power and that passion to play and play for the Capitals.”

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  Game Day Notebook: Ryan Poehling starting to fit in with Canadiens Heading into Wednesday’s game in Washington against the Capitals (7 p.m., SNE, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), Ryan Poehling had scored seven goals in the 34 games he had played with the Canadiens. Five of those goals came in two games. Poehling had a hat-trick and added another shootout goal in his NHL debut on April 6, 2019, a 6-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final game of the season at the Bell Centre. Poehling started the next Five of those goals came in two games.

While Ovechkin is known for his trademark one-timer from the top of the left-hand circle with his right-hand shot, only one of his first 15 goals this season came from that spot. Also, the days of Ovechkin being a defensive liability (he was minus-35 in 2013-14 when he scored 51 goals) are gone, thanks in large part to former Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who made him be more responsible in his own end. This season, under current coach Peter Laviolette, Ovechkin was plus-13 heading into Wednesday’s game, the ninth-best plus/minus differential in the NHL.

On Tuesday, I asked Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme what other players can learn from watching Ovechkin play.

“I think we all know top of the circle, one-timer,” Ducharme said. “He’s been scoring a lot of goals from there. But with the number of goals he’s scored in his career he also finds other ways to score. He’s pretty competitive, too. That’s something … I mean, he probably gets an extra 15-20 goals by going to the net, by finding pucks around the net, by scoring in different ways than what we’re used to seeing on the power play.”

Ovechkin has scored 272 of his career goals on the power play, which works out to 37 per cent. The only NHL player to score more power-play goals is Dave Andreychuk with 274.

Allen was asked if he thinks Ovechkin can break Gretzky’s record.

In the Habs' Room: 'We were dominated,' Brendan Gallagher admits

  In the Habs' Room: 'We were dominated,' Brendan Gallagher admits Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said the Canadiens had to do a better job of turning things around after they fell behind early in their 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. “Those two quick goals put us on our heels,” Ducharme said. “We can’t wait to get back to the room (to make adjustments). I talk to the players and they talks to themselves. We come (after the intermission) and we’re better, but we have do it within the game. We have to have those reactions after they score a goal, after a couple of shifts where the other team isn’t gaining momentum. We have to turn this around quicker.

“It will be tight,” the Canadiens goalie said. “Depends on how long he wants to play. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

Neither would I.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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