Capitals

Quick Links

How Alex Ovechkin finally got back to 50 in Capitals 6-3 win

ovechkin-50-usat.png
USA TODAY Sports Images

How Alex Ovechkin finally got back to 50 in Capitals 6-3 win

TAMPA – Alex Ovechkin had a golden chance at the magic number. The puck was on the stick. He had an open net to shoot. His 50thgoal was in sight. 

The puck sailed wide, though, and like any good tradesman Ovechkin looked down at his stick. What the hell happened? He didn’t pause to answer. There was no time for that. He circled back around and was in perfect position for a cross-ice pass from T.J. Oshie. This time he made no mistake. 

Ovechkin’s goal at 14:35 of the third period in a 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning was his 50thof the season. At age 33, when most great scorers are slowly fading, he remains the best. Capitals fans in the crowd at Amalie Arena began an “Ovi! Ovi!” chant as the home fans offered their grudging respect.

For the eight time in his career, Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark. Only Hockey Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy have done it nine times. Is there another one left in him? 

“You think I know?” Ovechkin said afterward, a little perplexed by the question. 

He doesn’t. None of us know when this sustained stretch of greatness will finally ebb. You just need to watch it until it finally extinguishes like a candle. Then the memories will be all that’s left. “Remember that time when….”

Ever the showman, Ovechkin wasn’t finished. His goal came with the Capitals ahead 4-2, a four-goal lead cut in half and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning clawing their way back into the game for an unlikely win. They still remember last year’s devastating loss to Washington in the Eastern Conference Final. Ovechkin’s 50thgoal wasn’t what they needed. Ovechkin was beginning to wonder; he had just one goal in his past six games.  

“I was just joking around, if [Oshie] was playing with him he would have gotten there 10 games ago,” forward Tom Wilson said. “It’s a privilege. It’s so cool to see what he does all the time. I’ve had a front-row seat for six, seven years now. He’s a pretty special player. I’m extremely happy for him.” 

Ovechkin didn’t give Tampa Bay a chance to catch its breath when he made it 5-2. Just 1:40 later, on the power play, he scored again, No. 51. This time it was his most indelible goal, a ripper from the left circle on the power play on a pass from teammate John Carlson. That ended the competitive portion of the night at 6-2 – even if the Lightning added a late goal in the final minute to make the score a little more respectable. 

But No. 50 was a reminder of young Ovechkin, the man-child in his early 20s who would hit anyone and go anywhere on the ice for the chance to score goals. He hunted them like prey. Nothing was too outlandish. He made you yelp every few weeks, an involuntary response to something you couldn’t believe you’d seen. 

“I think he has the best shot ever in hockey,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “It doesn't come as a surprise to us, but I think biggest thing with him is the last couple years, he's really focused on all areas of his game and still been able to put up goals. I think that's a big reason why we've had success and why he's had success. It's pretty amazing to watch see him shoot a puck. It's like nothing else.”

No better example than with Washington on the power play already up 2-0 in the first period. A turnover led to a break for Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette and he was headed toward Holtby with a chance to get his team – and the big crowd – back into the game. Instead, Ovechkin tracked him down. He raced up ice, he bodied Paquette. He took the puck away like a big brother ripping a toy away from a younger sibling. Just 40 seconds later, Oshie scored to make it 3-0. 

“It’s almost unfair that you just expect him to score 50 every year,” Oshie said. “But the little things that we notice is things like that. The backcheck. Him on the forecheck, getting hits, wearing down the other teams’ [defensemen], blocking shots. Those are things that I think he’s done a great job of these last couple of years and it’s turning him into a complete 200-foot player and we’re able top have him out there in those big moments and know he’s going to take care of us.”

Ovechkin missed his first great chance at 50, circled back like a shark and cut hard to the net for Oshie’s waiting pass. He fired the shot past Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and then trucked defenseman Braydon Coburn to the ice, the bull destroying everything in the china shop. It is how he used to sap the will of an opponent until he realized maybe he should tone things down to stay in the game for the long run.

“It’s always great being able to be in the Ovi trophy puck picture for sure,” Oshie joked. “I think I’m in maybe just two. But it’s fun to be in those. He does so much for us as a captain, as a leader, as a goal scorer. To be out there on the ice for him to get that 50th is pretty special.”

If Ovechkin’s lead holds with three games to go, he will win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the eighth time. Of course, that has only been awarded since 1999. If you go back more than 100 years in NHL history and add up every player who has led the league in goals scored in a season, Ovechkin is poised to pass Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull. They have both done it seven times. He will stand alone. 

“It’s hard if you really want to get into details you can get extremely specific and talk about goalie gear and talk about goalie style,” Oshie said. “You can talk about the type of sticks we use and our gear and stuff like that.  But he’s the most prolific and electrifying goal scorer that I’ve ever seen. And that’s either on TV or in person. He gets my vote for sure.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Who will the Caps play in their first playoff series? The round robin, explained.

Who will the Caps play in their first playoff series? The round robin, explained.

Before the season pause, the Caps were in danger of falling down the standings. Now they could claim the top spot in the east.
 
When the NHL paused its season on March 12, the Capitals held just a one-point lead in the Metropolitan Division and trailed the conference-leading Boston Bruins by 10 points.

The Bruins held an almost insurmountable lead atop the conference and the Philadelphia Flyers were one of the hottest teams in the league. At that point, Washington looked more likely to drop in the standings than to climb. With the NHL’s new 24-team playoff format for the 2019-20 season, however, the Caps will have three games to possibly claim the top spot in the east.
 
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Tuesday the league’s return to play plan including the 24-team playoff format.

Washington, as one of the top four teams in the conference, will get a bye to the first round of the playoffs and not have to play in the play-in round. Instead, the Caps will play a round-robin tournament against the other top seeds in the conference: Boston, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. The winner of that round robin will determine the seeds for the playoffs.
 
The inclusion of a round-robin has some fans a bit confused as it is not something seen in a normal season so let’s break it down.
 
First off, you can throw out the current seeding for the top four teams. The regular season records determined who the top four teams are, but that is it. They no longer matter. The round robin is a clean slate for those four teams. Washington will play each of the other teams once and regular season rules will apply. That means there will not be continuous overtime in a tie game, but instead it will go to five minutes of three-on-three followed by a shootout.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST



What this means is that Boston, despite being the presumptive Presidents’ Trophy winner, could fall all the way down to the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Caps, meanwhile, could claim the top spot in the conference with a strong showing in the round robin.
 
Why did the NHL do this? Bettman went into this in a video conference with the media after the initial announcement. Basically, this is an acknowledgment that the top teams need to play competitive games before playing against a team that had to win a playoff series just to get there.
 
What will be the reward for earning the top seed? It is not yet clear.
 
It has not yet been determined if the teams will be reseeded after the play-in round or if the playoff will be a bracket throughout. This could be significant depending on the upsets we see in the play-in round. For example, a bracket would set up for the No. 4 team to play the winner of the series between the No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins and the No. 12 Montreal Canadiens. If Montreal pulls off the upset as the lowest seed, that would give the No. 4 seed the best matchup on paper in the next round while the No. 1 seed would be playing either the No. 8 or 9 seed.
 
As one of the top seeds, the Caps will finish no lower than No. 4 in the conference but could potentially finish No. 1.

But we are still a long way off from determining who Washington will play in their first playoff series.
 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: