Alex Ovechkin is having yet another incredible season. The Capitals’ 30-year-old captain leads the NHL with 39 goals and is on pace to finish with 50 or more goals for the seventh time in 11 NHL seasons.
He’s also third in the NHL with a plus-23 rating, behind only Tyler Toffoli (plus-24) and league leader Evgeny Kuznetsov (plus-31). And yet, he may not even be the Capitals’ most valuable player this season.
(Feel free to engage in that argument below).
But unlike most other seasons, Ovechkin has been asked to critique his team more often than himself this year. The Capitals (44-10-4) enter tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens (28-27-5) with more wins through 58 games than any team in NHL history.
They are also bidding to become the first team since the 1976-77 Canadiens to go an entire season without consecutive losses in regulation. That Canadiens team finished with an NHL record 132 points. Ovechkin was asked on Tuesday if he thinks it would be special for these Caps to eclipse that record.
“Yeah, of course,” Ovechkin said. “But for us it doesn’t matter how many points we’re going to have. We just have to be in first place to make sure we’re going to have home (ice) advantage. That’s the most important thing, I think.”
Ovechkin was then asked if the Capitals must wait until the playoffs for their legacy to be determined.
“We don’t talk about legacy right now,” he said. “For us it’s been two years of kind of a rebuilding process. We bring in a new coaching staff, we sign new players and our mentality and culture has changed. It’s been a good thing.”
Ovechkin shared his thoughts on a few other topics, such as:
The Caps’ commanding lead over the Rangers in the Metro Division (18 points), the Panthers in the Eastern Conference (17 points) and Stars in the NHL standings (10 points):
“Sometimes you look at the standings and think, ‘Oh, Geez, can somebody catch us or not?’ Of course it’s nice to have that kind of space between different teams because I remember last year at this time of the year, every point counted for us. We needed every point because we didn’t know if we would make the playoffs or not. Right now we feel more comfortable, obviously, and it’s helped out mentality.”
The confidence the Caps have in Braden Holtby, who leads the NHL in wins (38):
“I think Holtby and the system – how we play in the defensive zone and neutral zone – it’s helped us and helped him. Obviously, I think right now he’s the best goalie in the league and if he’s not going to win best goalie I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it would be strange. He makes unbelievable saves at the right time and the right place. He keeps us in games and his work ethic in the practices since two years ago and right now is unbelievable. You can see how he’s working and how focused he is. He’s grown up and it’s good to see.”
Whether the 2015-16 Caps will ultimately be judged on their success in the playoffs:
“We signed very good pieces the last two years. The depth of the team is pretty high and everybody knows we’re capable of doing good things this year. Of course we can talk about, ‘Yeah we’re going to win the Stanley Cup’ and all that kind of stuff. But we aren’t going to do it if we’re not working hard on the ice.”