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As 2018 draws to a close, let’s celebrate the greatest year of Alex Ovechkin’s career

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As 2018 draws to a close, let’s celebrate the greatest year of Alex Ovechkin’s career

“You can’t score every night,” Alex Ovechkin said Dec. 15 after a lackluster showing against the Buffalo Sabres in which he scored only one measly goal, his seventh in three games.

Ovechkin may think he can’t score every night, but he certainly comes close. His one goal against Buffalo on Dec. 15 only felt like a disappointment because he had scored a hat trick in each of the prior two games. As the NHL returns from the Christmas break on Thursday, Ovechkin sits first in the league in goals with 29, three more than Jeff Skinner who sits in second despite playing two more games.

What Ovechkin is doing this season is even more impressive given that he is 33 years old, when most players suffer a precipitous decline in production after seeing their prime years come and go.

“It's incredible,” T.J. Oshie said. “I can't explain it … but he's a special talent. He feels like to me a once in a lifetime goal scorer. It’s a pleasure being able to watch, being able to be a part of it and play on his line.”

“Such a threat, especially when he’s confident and he’s shooting the puck where he wants,” Brett Connolly said. “[Ovechkin is] a bull out there, it seems like he keeps getting better and better every year. Such a hungriness to score goals. He’s having a hell of a season and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down.”

Ovechkin’s continued scoring dominance is an appropriate way to cap off what has been the most remarkable year of the Great 8’s career.

The year 2018 saw Ovechkin score his 600th career goal, claim his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer (49 goals), finally defeat rival Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and, of course, hoist the Stanley Cup.

And, oh yeah, he also had a baby.

How do you follow up a season like that? By defying expectations and Father Time with 29 goals in 35 games – putting him on pace for for a 68-goal season – and setting a new career-high with a 14-game point streak at the age of 33.

“The age he's at to still continue to not only want to get better, but to be able to,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “After just the way he's played the game with such a physical presence and the energy he has and the size he is, it's not easy. … I know some other years statistically have been better, but for me it's his best two-way hockey that he's played.” 

In his career, Ovechkin has established himself as one of the best to ever play the game. But in 2018, Ovechkin is putting the final touches on what has been the greatest year of his career.

“At that level that he got himself to last year right at the start of the year … he’s really just kept building off that,” Oshie said. “It’s fun being on this side of that when Big O is going like that. It’s a privilege to play with him out there.”

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Lars Eller was 'not surprised to see that kind of acting' from Brad Marchand in Tom Wilson scrum

Lars Eller was 'not surprised to see that kind of acting' from Brad Marchand in Tom Wilson scrum

During the first period of Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins, Michal Kempny gave Brad Marchand a little shove following a whistle with 20-seconds left in the frame. Marchand responded with an even greater shove to Kempny's face.

Caps' top line enforcer Tom Wilson came onto the scene immediately, taking exception to Marchand's tiff with Kempny. When Marchand saw Wilson coming after him, he immediately flopped to the ice before Wilson could lay more than an elbow on him. Lucky for Wilson, the referees didn't buy it and neither did anyone on the Caps.

"I'm not surprised to see that kind of acting from him," Lars Eller said of Marchand on The Sports Junkies Monday.

"I think it's good that we back each other up and Tom came over and Marchand...yeah, I don't know what he was doing," Eller said. "He just kind of turtled on the ice there and goes down and Tom barely even touched him."

The Caps came out of Boston with two points, beating the Bruins 3-2 in an overtime shootout victory. They host the Anaheim Ducks Monday night at 7:00 p.m.

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4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Boyd gets a promotion

4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Boyd gets a promotion

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Capitals (15-3-4) saw their point streak snapped on Friday, but rebounded on Saturday with a come-from-behind win in Boston. They will look to stay hot on Monday as they host the Anaheim Ducks (10-9-2). You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live kicking things off at 6 p.m. before Caps Pregame Live begins at 6:30 p.m. to bring you up to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here are four things to know for Monda’s game.

Boyd gets a bump

Travis Boyd's strong play on Saturday did not go unnoticed by the coaches as he was moved up to the third line at Monday's morning skate, switching spots with Garnet Hathaway.

Here are the lines from the skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Travis Boyd
Brendan Leipsic - Chandler Stephenson - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Radko Gudas
Jonas Siegenthaler -  Nick Jensen

Carl Hagelin was on the ice in a non-contact jersey and will miss his sixth-straight game. Nic Dowd was not on the ice. Todd Reirden said both remain day-to-day, but Hagelin was closer to returning than Dowd. When asked, Reirden acknowledged that Dowd's injury was worse than previously believed.

Holtby vs. Gibson

Braden Holtby will get the start for the Caps. Since his "reset" early in the season, he has been lights out with an 8-0-1 record in his last nine starts with a .924 save percentage. 

Backing up Holtby will be Vitek Vanecek. He was recalled on Saturday to take the place of Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek has a lower cap hit and the team needed that space to recall Boyd.

The expected starter for the Ducks will be John Gibson, a netminder who has established himself as one of the league's best in recent years. This season he is 7-9-0 with a .915 save percentage and 2.83 GAA.

Anaheim’s putrid power play

The Caps have taken 83 minors this season already, tied for the second-most in the league. Limiting power play opportunities for the opposition should always be a priority, but even if Washington gets into penalty trouble this is a game where they may be able to get away with it.

Anaheim's power play is clicking at only 9.1-percent, the second-worst power play in the league. Only the Ottawa Senators struggle more to score on the man advantage.

The Caps’ epic collapse

The last time these two teams met in Washington was Dec. 2, 2018. Midway through the second, the Caps held a 5-1 lead and looked like they would be able to coast to the easy blowout victory. The Ducks had other ideas.

Andrew Cogliano sparked the comeback with a goal just 61 seconds after Dowd made it 5-1. Rickard Rakell scored less than a minute after Cogliano and suddenly a three-goal lead did not seem all that insurmountable. Anaheim would go on to score three more goals in the third period, five unanswered in total, as the Ducks stunned the Caps 6-5. Anaheim did all of this in regulation as well so the Caps did not even get a single point to show for their second period 5-1 lead.

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