Four players from the Metropolitan Division joined a video conference with reporters on Thursday to discuss a wide range of topics including the coronavirus, the season format when the league returns from its pause and, of course, Alex Ovechkin. To the utter chagrin of the Great 8 himself who was among the four players on the conference, there was plenty of praise heaped upon him by the other three.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno said in reference to a recent video of Sergei Ovechkin shooting the puck that he would send his kids over for tips.
"I'm sending my kids over as soon as this quarantine up to work out with Ovi and get that shot going," he said. "They're all right-handers so I don't know how to teach them."
New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban said multiple times over the course of the call that he was glad the Devils were not among the teams the Capitals have to play in their remaining 13 games of the regular season.
"I’m confident if we played another 13 games this season and Ovi plays, Ovi can get another 20 goals in that time," he said.
Such is life for an all-time great.
Sometimes it can be hard to grasp history in the present or to know exactly how a player will be viewed years from now when they have hung up the skates. And then there are players like Ovechkin who we already know will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
At 34 years old, Ovechkin's Hall of Fame legacy is not in question. What is in question is just how many milestones he may ultimately achieve. When a player reaches that status, his opponents can't help but praise him.
“Ovi, I just can’t stand how you just stand in that one damn spot and score all those goals," Foligno said. "That drives me crazy.”
"It’s been fun to watch and fun to see you continue year after year," New York Islanders forward Anders Lee said.
Some players will give canned quotes when the cameras or the recorders turn on -- quotes that sound stale and rehearsed and which leaves you feeling like they don't actually mean anything. The format of the video conference, done out of necessity due to the coronavirus, provided a unique look as the players were essentially speaking to one another. Each player was on the conference with a moderator asking them questions. Many of the questions turned into a back-and-forth between the players which gave a unique look into how the players actually feel and interact with one another.
It was striking the level of respect they all had for Ovechkin.
“You’ve done a great job for that team, obviously, and just the way you play the game," Foligno said. "I love the passion that you play with. I think that’s something everybody appreciates about you."
And that's from the captain of the team the Caps eliminated in the first round in 2018, having to rally back from a 2-0 series deficit.
All the talk surrounding Ovechkin this season stems from two important things. First, he became just the eighth player in NHL history to score 700 goals. Second, with 13 games remaining in the regular season, he was going to score 50 goals again for the ninth time of his career which would have tied him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons ever. In a larger sense, another 50-goal season (or 48 -goal season as it stands now) has made the idea of catching Gretzky's record of 894 goals seem at least possible.
Gretzky's record has long thought to be untouchable, but as Ovechkin appears poised to make a run at one of hockey's most important records held by one of Canada's favorite sons, Ovechkin is getting nothing but support from his peers.
"I think if he did catch Wayne, it would be great for the game," Subban said. "I think we see it in other sports. We see what [LeBron James is] doing in basketball. We’ve seen what Tom Brady’s done. I think that in hockey, we’ve seen it as the years go by and by, a lot of these legends and Hall of Famers that are there getting older and we need to have people that currently you can touch and you can watch and you can talk to and see and watch on TV that are setting milestones as well. So, I think it’s great for the game."
That's a subject Ovechkin hates talking about and he even stepped in after a few answers to say, "Let's finish this one."
But it is a subject that will be inescapable the closer he gets to reaching it. With every goal, Ovechkin's legacy grows larger and even his fiercest rivals can't help but their tip their caps to him as he makes a run at history.
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