Alex Ovechkin offered Karl Alzner a little advice in a recent text message conversation between the former teammates.
“He said, ‘Don’t block any of my shots,’” Alzner cracked Friday afternoon, moments after Montreal wrapped up its practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We’ll see.”
Alzner, who signed with the Habs as a free agent this summer after spending nine seasons in Washington, will make his return to D.C. on Saturday at Capital One Arena.
So why were Alzer and Ovechkin texting one another late Thursday night? Alzner initiated the conversation, reaching out to Ovi after No. 8 scored a hat trick to rally the Caps for a 5-4 shootout victory in Ottawa.
Alzner wanted to congratulate him—and rekindle an old joke.
“There was a little inside joke that we all had last year and when I saw that he had a hat trick [in] the first game of the year I texted him that joke and he replied laughing and told me he switched to CCM [sticks] and this and that,” Alzner said with a smile. “So it was brief, but it was just kind of funny. There’s some guys that I’m very close with, and it’s just natural that we’ll keep in touch.”
Alzner’s challenge Saturday night will be twofold: No. 1) he’ll need to keep his emotions in check as he returns to his first NHL home and No. 2) he could see some time marking Ovechkin’s line—something he’s done hundreds of times in practice but never in a game.
“You can’t let him shoot, that’s the main thing,” Alzner said, asked if there’s any secret to shutting Ovechkin down. “You watched yesterday. If you watch his goals, you just give him an inch and he can score. It’s crazy. With guys on him, it doesn’t matter. So that’s the main thing. If you take away his space, it can help. I’ve seen it work in the past, but I’ve also seen him fight through it. So it’s just manage it as best you can. I don’t think there’s one secret to him.”
Asked if he’s ever wondered what it would feel like to catch on Ovechkin one-timer off the shin pad, Alzner said he had thought about it—recently, in fact.
“I’m really happy he plays on the other side so I don’t have those one-timers on the PK and all that stuff,” Alzner joked. “I’ve went through all these things. So, yeah, I’ve thought about it. But when it comes down to it there’s other guys that shoot hard, too, and you still find a way to put yourself in front of it. So if it happens, it happens.”