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Alex Ovechkin's quest for 50 falls just short, but the Rocket Richard Trophy is a good consolation

Alex Ovechkin's quest for 50 falls just short, but the Rocket Richard Trophy is a good consolation

Alex Ovechkin assured himself of a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with a pair of goals Saturday night, pushing his league-leading total to 49.

Ovechkin’s closest competition was Jets’ second-year sniper, Patrik Laine, who finished with 44 goals. (Las Vegas’ William Karlsson entered Saturday’s late game vs. Calgary with 43.)

Ovi finished on top but he came up a goal short of an eighth 50 goal season. 

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Caps’ captain scored goals in the first and third periods of Washington’s 5-3 win over New Jersey, with the Capital One Arena faithful chanting, ‘We want 50!’

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Alas, he couldn’t get there, despite a third period breakaway and a couple of late power plays. All in all, Coach Trotz played his superstar 6:04 of the final 8:10. 

Ovechkin finished with 18 shot attempts, including eight on goal.

“I have pretty good chances in the first and the second and the third, the breakaway, I missed an empty net,” he said before adding with a smile, “But whatever. S*** happens.”

Asked if he heard the chants, he said: “Yeah, of course. The guys, the fans cheering for me, it was pretty cool moment. I'm pretty sure they enjoy it, the boys, my team enjoyed it as well. If I did it, it would be pretty cool moment.”

Ovechkin joined Bobby Hull as the only players to lead the NHL in goals seven times. Ovi also became the second player since expansion to lead the league in goals at age 32 or older. Phil Esposito did it twice in the early 1970’s just before his 33rd and 34th birthdays.

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“It is pretty remarkable,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “You get to see a pretty remarkable athlete night in and night out. And sometimes you don’t appreciate it as much as you should.

As disappointed as Ovechkin was to come up short of 50 goals, he was also eager to turn the page after the game to the bigger goal: authoring a deep postseason run.

“It's pretty special,” Ovechkin said of leading the league in goals. “Thanks to my teammates, obviously, without them nothing can happen.”

“I'm pretty sure right now our goal not about the personal stats,” he added. “Of course it's nice. Of course the end of the season you pay attention to that. Of course you don't want to lose it because you have a pretty good chance. I'm pretty sure right now for us it's most important thing is the playoffs. I think we're ready, and we can't wait to start.”

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Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

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The Hershey Bears

Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

The contracts of Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann and Bears assistant coach Ryan Murphy will not be renewed for next season, the Capitals announced Wednesday. Hershey finished in last place in the Atlantic Division and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level. We also want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Hershey Bears and wish him all the best.”

Just two seasons ago, the Bears under Mann were playing the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in four games to the Lake Erie Monsters. Mann served as an assistant coach for Hershey from 2009-2013 and was hired as the head coach in 2014. He led the Bears to a record of 162-102-22-18 during his tenure, good for sixth all-time among Hershey coaches in wins.

Mann coached several current Capitals players in Hershey including Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Philipp Grubauer, among others. Hershey also currently boasts several of the Caps' biggest prospects such as Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Murphy was with the Bears for all four years of Mann's tenure. He started in video development in Mann's first season and was promoted to assistant coach the following year.

“We’d like to thank Troy Mann and Ryan Murphy for their contributions to the Hershey Bears organization,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations, Bryan Helmer. “While we are looking to move our hockey club forward, today is certainly an emotional day. I had the pleasure of working with both Troy and Ryan behind the bench for two seasons, and consider them to be great people. We wish both all the best in future endeavors.”

Coaching in the AHL is a tough job as coaches are expected to bring the team success while also developing their NHL club's prospects. There are times when the two goals do not necessarily line up which can make it a difficult balance.

Considering how important it is to develop talent from within, AHL coaches are very significant parts of an organization. Getting the right guy in charge of Hershey won't just boost the AHL team, but will help the Caps down the line with developed players.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page