Beninati: Rare Win Over Buffalo

Beninati: Rare Win Over Buffalo

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 11:29pm

By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

It wasn't the most stylish game you'll ever see, but it was effective for Washington. And anytime they bring a win back from Buffalo it's cause for celebration. You realize the Caps have won just 38 of 132 meetings anywhere against the Sabres. They earned the decision tonight for a number of reasons.Let's start with Jose Theodore, who wasn't overworked by any means, but was solid when he needed to be. His third period save on Chris Butler was huge and helped preserve the lead in a tight game.

Defensively the team was in good position most of the night in front of Theodore. It was obvious that the boys took Bruce Boudreau's message to heart. The one that said they need to be sound defensively and that they can't just rely on being the best offensive team in the league.Jeff Schultz and Mike Green were really good together tonight. Schultz helped out with a pair of assists and Green cashed in the game winner with a well-timed joining of the rush. Green just has the knack for turning innocent looking plays into quality chances and he beat Ryan Miller in the third period.Miller was his usual stingy self. He had no chance on Jason Chimera's double deflection and the Green put away was unstoppable. Miller was especially good this morning addressing the Buffalo media after his Olympic efforts. He's a very likeable guy and Sabre fans are fortunate to have him.The Caps added some reinforcements today at the trade deadline. In Scott Walker they get a grizzled vet, who when healthy plays the game with a great amount of jam. Eric Belanger will add depth and speed down the middle. He's a better offensive player than most people think and his defensive responsibility is unquestioned.

Joe Corvo is a colorful character, who marches to the beat of his own drum. But he has very good offensive instincts, is built like a tank and when focused can be physical in his own zone. Caps fans know Milan Jurcina has great size. It will be a while until we see him on the ice as an Olympic injury has him on the shelf for a while.Get used to seeing the Caps at home. The first of five straight at Verizon Center is on CSN in HD Thursday night.

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Could this be the best season of Alex Ovechkin’s career?

Could this be the best season of Alex Ovechkin’s career?

The NHL is rapidly becoming a young man’s game. Just look at the most dominant players in the league. Connor McDavid is the best player in the world at 21. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon sit No. 1 and 2 in points in the league at the ages of 22 and 23 respectively. The Toronto Maple Leafs are taking the league by storm with a pair of 21-year-olds in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading the way. Patrik Laine, 20, is one of the top goal scorers in the league and Brayden Point, 22, may be the best player on a loaded Tampa Bay roster.

Sitting above all those players, however, and atop the league in goals is the 33-year-old Alex Ovechkin.

“He is having a great start to the year,” head coach Todd Reirden said Tuesday. “In particular it's been his five-on-five play, converting on his chances and taking advantage of some fortunate breaks that went his way tonight, but he's earning. He's earning it and he's doing things the right way and he's been a great leader for us so far this year. Can't say enough about the year he's having.”

Ovechkin now has a four-goal lead in the goal-scoring race as he scored Nos. 23, 24 and 25 with his 21st career hat trick on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the seventh time last season as the league’s leading goal scorer. He did not reach 25 goals until game No. 41 on Jan. 2 and that’s after he spotted himself seven goals in the first two games of the season. In 2007-08 – the season in which Ovechkin lit the lamp a career-high 65 times – he did not reach 25 goals until game No. 36 on Dec. 22.

Thursday’s game was just Washington’s 30th of the season.

Ovechkin is currently enjoying a 12-game point streak that has seen him compile 19 points during that stretch, the second-longest streak of his career. Of those 19 points, only one has come on the power play.

With 39 points on the season, Ovechkin ranks tied for seventh in the NHL.

Is his current goal-scoring pace sustainable? Perhaps not. For his career, Ovechkin has a shooting percentage of 12.6-percent. For the season, he is shooting at 21.6-percent. But he is also taking fewer shots.

Ovechkin is currently shooting 3.87 shots per game, the second lowest rate of his career. If that holds, it will be only the third time in his career he has averaged fewer than four shots per game in a season.

So for those arguing that Ovechkin’s shooting percentage is bound to decline, there’s also a case to be made that he is also likely to start taking more shots which would help keep his goal-scoring pace up.

But the fact that we are even talking about this is remarkable in and of itself. While most players begin to physically decline in their early 30s, Ovechkin could be putting together the best season of his career at 33. That is absolutely remarkable considering the physical style in which he plays and all the miles he has put in with the Olympics, playoffs and 12 NHL seasons of over 70 games. Excluding the lockout-shortened season, the fewest number of games he has played in a season is 72.

Ovechkin has never missed more than 10 games in a single season. Ever.

So while the pundits argue over whether players like McDavid, Matthews or MacKinnon are the best in the league, don’t forget about the 33-year-old who is outscoring them all and who now also has a Stanley Cup ring to go with his already storied career.


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Nats' Max Scherzer puts pitching arm to good use thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick

Nats' Max Scherzer puts pitching arm to good use thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick

Washington National ace Max Scherzer is putting his throwing arm to good use in the offseason thanks to Alex Ovechkin.

The pitcher and his wife, Erica May-Scherzer, were in attendance for the Caps' 6-2 blowout win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night where Ovi notched a hat trick for the first time since Nov. 25, 2017.

In classic hat trick celebratory fashion, Scherzer threw his cap onto the ice at Capital One Arena.

Scherzer has always been a big supporter of the Caps. Back in June, the Cy Young Award winner and Nats first baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, led the "Lets Go Caps" chant during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. He even credited striking out 13 batters the following day to the Caps' win.