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A living legend: Ovechkin’s 700th goal further cements his status as an all-time great

A living legend: Ovechkin’s 700th goal further cements his status as an all-time great

“When you get on the ice with them, you kind of stare at him and it's Alex Ovechkin,” Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes said. “You don't realize how big he is and how fast he is and stuff like that on TV, but when you get to see him in person that's kind of what you realize. Generational player.”

“I don't think special really does it justice,” New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “He's such a weapon, he's so dangerous when he's on the ice."

Good players come and go in sports. A player can look like the most dominant player in the sport, but that can often fade quickly. The legacy of the all-time greats, however, stands the test of time. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize the difference between good and great in the moment, and then there are those players who transcend the game in such a way that you cannot help but recognize their greatness.

Even before Ovechkin scored his 700th goal, he had reached that point. But on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, he further solidified himself among the all-time greats of the game.

“He's just that good,” Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “That's all it is. He's an amazing player.”

Those sentiments are echoed by players across the game, especially by those who get to see it up close.

“It's every day,” Garnet Hathaway said. “It's not just a couple games here and there. There's a reason he can put a streak together like this. It's how much he works on his game and just how ready he is to go and how seriously he takes every shift.”

“He hasn't lost a step, he hasn't gotten slower, his shot hasn't gotten softer, he hasn't had any less drive,” T.J. Oshie said. “If anything, more drive. It's going to be fun to watch his career and see how many people he can climb on that all-time goals ladder.”

But such adulation is not restricted just to Ovechkin’s teammates.

Opponents and rivals from across the league can’t help but praise the Great 8 who has never been more deserving of that moniker than he is now.

“What I admire the most about him, it's always a challenge playing against him,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “He's got that mean streak to his game. When he's coming at full speed it's going to hurt. He gets physical, he gets into the game more.”

“He scores a lot of the same goals over and over again and it is indefensible,” Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said.

When discussing Ovechkin’s goal-scoring prowess, it does not take long for his shot to come up.

Ovechkin has been baffling defensemen and goalies alike throughout his career with his impossible shot. He has been firing the one-timer from “the office,” inside the left faceoff circle, for his entire career and no one has found a way to stop it.

“A moment that is repeated over and over and that is knowing where he is going to be on the power play and still scoring the goal there,” Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “You know what he is going to do and you know where the puck is going and it is still in the back of the net and it is definitely a gift that he has."

“There is nobody that has ever been more dangerous than him in that spot on the power play in the history of our game,” Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said.

While Ovechkin’s power play one-timer is unquestionably his signature move, don’t take that to mean Ovechkin is a one-trick pony who is padding his stats with power play goals. He’s not, especially not this year.

Washington’s power play has struggled immensely this season. It ranks 14th in the NHL, but since December 1, it ranks 26th with only 16 power play goals in 32 games. Of Ovechkin’s 42 goals this season, only 12 have come on the man advantage.

And yet, Ovechkin remains the most lethal goal-scorer in the game, a reflection of how his game has continued to evolve throughout his career.

“I think he’s found other ways to use that release," Braden Holtby said. "The thing with him is he can get his shot off from all different types of places and, especially when you have [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Evgeny Kuznetsov] around and his ability to find those open spaces and those guys can put it in his wheelhouse, it’s a pretty dangerous combination.”

A dangerous combination that neither the top defensemen nor goalies know how to stop.

“I don't know how many times we've talked about where he likes to set up and how he likes to score and we still can't stop it,” St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “He's dynamic, he finds ways.”

“He’s also a guy that gets the puck off quick, and very hard,” Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Anderson said, “And it’s one of those shots it doesn’t seem like you really have a chance to react. Hopefully it hits you and it just overpowers a lot of goalies I think.”

Teams have been trying unsuccessfully to find a way to stop Ovechkin since 2005. It hasn’t worked.

Now in his 15th NHL season, the stats and accolades have piled up. One of the most important abilities of a great player is avail-ability and that is an aspect of Ovechkin’s career that has separated him from many of his peers.

The longevity and durability Ovechkin has showed throughout his career have allowed him to put up numbers once thought impossible in this era of hockey, and even bring hope that he could challenge Wayne Gretzky’s goal record of 894 goals, a record long thought to be untouchable within the hockey community.

“To me, it's crazy that he's even getting mentioned with Gretzky in this era of the hockey style that we're playing in now,” Tom Wilson said. “He's a machine. He's just one of the most motivated guys as far as scoring goals that I've ever met. It's pretty fun to be a part of.”

Gretzky shattered the previous record of 801 held by Gordie Howe by a whopping 93 goals. A player could score 44 goals every season for 20 years and still come up 14 goals shy of Gretzky’s 894. That’s how unbelievable his record is and why it was thought no one could touch it.

Everyone’s production falls off a cliff when they hit 30, right? You have to be an all-time great player to even talk about 894 as a possibility

That’s where we are already with Ovechkin.

“It’s impressive what he's doing,” Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid said. “He just seems ageless and just keeps on scoring goals. I don't see any reason he can't keep doing that.”

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How former Capital Joel Ward helped Brenden Dillon adjust to life in the Washington area

How former Capital Joel Ward helped Brenden Dillon adjust to life in the Washington area

When trying to adjust to life in a new city, it can be nice to have a familiar face around to help you. That’s exactly what Brenden Dillon had after he was traded to the Capitals in Joel Ward.

Dillon was acquired by Washington on Feb. 18. In just his third game with the team, former Cap and San Jose Shark forward Joel Ward participated in the ceremonial puck drop prior to the Capitals Black History Game on Sunday, Feb. 23.

Dillon and Ward were teammates in San Jose for three seasons from 2015 to 2018. Dillon credited Ward for helping him get acclimated to Arlington, Va. and the Washington area.

“There's a bunch of great restaurants and walking around areas,” Dillon said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil. “I was pretty fortunate when Joel Ward actually did the drop the puck for I think it was either my second or third game as a Capital. He kind of gave me a bit of the lay of the land while we were out here, showing me some of his little hidden gems from when he played. Obviously Wardo and I have a great relationship so it was nice to have a familiar face for the first few days.”

Ward spoke glowingly of Dillon following his puck drop so it should come as no surprise that he was willing to help out his former teammate.

“He's a true pro,” Ward said of Dillon. “He's an unbelievable human being. I think he's probably one of the nicest guys I've come across in my hockey days, to be honest with you. He's just a humble guy that wants to work and learn.”

The extra help in finding the right places to eat has certainly paid off. Dillon remained in the hotel in Arlington with the season on pause until just this past week and had to rely heavily on take out.

“I've been walking around and grabbing some to go,” Dillon said. “If you ever need good pick up options in Arlington, Va. or the D.C. area for food, I'm your guy.”

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Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

This is not the way Brenden Dillon envisioned his year going. At the start of the season, he had Stanley Cup aspirations with the San Jose Sharks. Now he plays for a team across the country from where he calls home and is waiting for the NHL season to resume.

"What a year it's been, really," Dillon said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think for anybody, not just myself or not just a hockey player or a Sharks player specifically, if you were to talk to us in August what things would be like come March time, what it would be. I think it's just at this stage with how everything's gone for me, I almost feel like a little bit of just a lone ranger with where I'm at."

Dillon has been with the Sharks since getting traded by the Dallas Stars in November 2014. During his time there, he made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. After several years there, San Jose began to feel like home. That was evident in the emotional postgame interview Dillon gave when contemplating if he had just played his last game with the Sharks.

"Leaving San Jose, I was there for a long time, had a home there, had everything kind of stability," Dillon said.

He added, "It's not just somewhere that you work, it's not just somewhere that you move to for hockey. It becomes your home, it becomes your family, your teammates. It becomes second nature where the streets, the people you meet not just at the rink but at the grocery stores, the mall, whatever it might be. You really build those relationships and then really with one phone call your life can completely change."

That phone call came on Feb. 18 when the Capitals traded for the veteran defenseman to shore up the team's blue line.

The trade itself wasn't a surprise. On an expiring contract and with the team being where they were in the standings, Dillon knew he was likely to get traded. When he got word he was going to Washington, he was excited for the opportunity, but that transition to a new team is rarely an easy one.

"You're going from, in my case, one side of the country to the other," Dillon said. "You're going and meeting 22, 23 new coworkers that you're going to see every day. I was very lucky to come to a team like Washington where, when I did come out this way, the guys, I was sitting right in between [Alex Ovechkin] and [John Carlson]. It was pretty cool to be a part of that. I think just the opportunity for me on the ice, it was a perfect fit for my kind of game, being able to skate, move pucks and play my physical brand of hockey. I think it was pretty seamless."

Now that transition has been put on hold as life decided to throw another monkey wrench Dillon's way with the spread of the coronavirus.

With the season paused, Dillon was staying until this past week trying to stay in shape and adjust to his new life. But he was making the best of it with his new teammates.

"There's been a lot of guys here who even during this time, whether it's just a few of us getting together and playing some tennis in the area," Dillon said. "I mean there's a good chunk of guys that are still in town so it's kind of been nice to at least have a little bit of that other than staring at a wall. I've done more puzzles and watched more Netflix than I think a lot of people could. I think though when it does come to the actual hockey part of things, it has been good out here. "

Dillon's mentality has remained positive through it all.

Though emotional about leaving San Jose, Dillon is excited about the chance to come to Washington to compete for a Cup. After a few weeks, he has a good idea of where the good spots are for food in Arlington and Washington, and he is thankful for his new teammates who have made an effort to make him feel welcome.

Dillon is excited for the opportunity that lays before him, he is just anxious to get going again.

"It was fun to be a part of a lot of success in San Jose for the five, six years that I was there," Dillon said. "I will forever cherish that time, from the fans to the city and I'll definitely go back and visit and see some of my friends that are in the town. But to come out here, already it's been a great, great group of guys from management to the coaches to the players specifically too. Really made me feel at home."

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