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Could Ovechkin ever catch Gretzky?

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Could Ovechkin ever catch Gretzky?

Tonight at Verizon Center, the Capitals will honor Alex Ovechkin’s 500th NHL goal with a pregame ceremony and a nice shiny gift.

The fact Ovechkin became the fifth fastest player in NHL history to reach 500 goals -- he did it in his 801st NHL game -- in an age when goal scoring is near an all-time low is astonishing to those around the league. 

And it makes them wonder how many more the Great 8 will have when he decides to hang up the skates. 

“What (reaching 500 goals) means is he’s an extraordinarily talented player, a generational player,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told CSNMidAtlantic.com. “And he’s also somebody who shows a passion for the game. As a fan, you can just feed off the energy that he brings every night to the game and to his teammates.”

Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin came into the NHL five years before Ovechkin, in 2000, and has 220 goals and 731 assists for 951 points in 1,133 games. To gain some perspective on Ovechkin’s goal totals, it took Henrik and his brother, Daniel (346 goals), 13 NHL seasons and nearly 2,000 combined NHL games to combine for 500 goals.

“It’s unbelievable to see those numbers,” Henrik Sedin said. “That’s 50 goals a season, and that should be in impossible in today’s NHL. He went through some tough years a few years back where he only scored 30-plus goals. That’s when you know you’re good.”

Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller, who is expected to return to the nets tonight after suffering a groin injury on Dec. 20, has allowed 18 goals to Ovechkin in his career. He says few players in NHL history have possessed the intestinal drive to score goals like Ovechkin. 

“It’s his willingness to get to the places where he can score,” Miller said. “I think it’s more his attitude. He’ll go through you, he’ll throw it on net, he’ll sacrifice his body or throw himself into the flow of the play. 

“He’s a strong guy and with his release it never comes off flat – ever. He’s kind of a cross between a lacrosse player and a hockey player. He’s got an aggressive curve on his stick and it’s like he carries the puck a little further. It’s a tough read with his release, so it has to be defense by committee with him.”

While he could have never predicted Ovechkin would reach 500 goals in just over 800 games, Miller said he recognized Ovechkin’s incredible talent during his rookie season of 2005-06.

“Whether he could maintain that style for as long as he has, that’s been the thing I think is most impressive,” Miller said. “He’s really physical. He goes to hard areas. He’s like a bull out there and he’s been doing it for a number of years. Usually you see running backs in football, they wear out. Ovi seems to be going pretty strong and that’s what makes him hard to contain.”

So, at this rate, just how many goals can Ovechkin score in his career? He’s on pace for 51 this season and has five more years on his 13-year, $124 million contract. If Ovechkin averages 45 goals in those five seasons leading up to his 36th birthday he’ll have roughly 750 goals at the end of his contract.

Right now, that would place him third on the NHL’s all-time list, behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801), although Jaromir Jagr is creeping up on both with 737 career goals.

For Ovechkin to have a chance at surpassing Howe and challenge Gretzky’s record, he’d need to average 37 goals in each of the next 10 seasons.

“No, I don’t think I’m going to play 10 years,” said Ovechkin , who turned 30 in September. “I’m not Jagr. As long as I’m healthy and as long as I produce what I can do, physically, that’s the most important thing. 

“You can play, but what’s the point if you can do nothing out there? You’re just going to embarrass yourself and embarrass the name. You have to be done when it’s time. Of course, it’s going to be hard (to retire) but sometimes you have to do that kind of stuff.”

Canucks forward Radim Vrbata, who has 256 goals in 912 NHL games, said he thinks Ovechkin would need to change the way he plays if he hoped to still be playing at the age of 40. 

“With the way he likes to score goals and the passion he has for it, if somebody can do it in today’s game I think it’s him,” Vrbata said. “It’s all on him, how long he wants to play and if he has the desire to do it. To score 500 goals in 800 games is something special and quite an accomplishment.

“He would have to change his game a little bit. Jagr was different when he was young but as he got older he figured out how to change his game and now - he’s not as fast as he used to be -- but he’s still effective. 

“(Ovechkin) would probably have to do something similar to that, maybe not play as physical as he does. But scoring goals is not something you can teach. You have to have it in you and he certainly does.”

There’s the rub. In the eyes of Henrik Sedin, and probably in Ovechkin’s as well, if you take the physical part of Ovechkin game away from him, do the goals diminish as well?  

“Yeah, for him to score 50 in 80 every year, I think he has to play the way he does now,” Sedin said. “I don’t see him enough, but I think that’s the way he needs to play. It’ll be tough for him to keep going at this pace if he changes his game.”

Bettman was asked how many goals he thinks Ovechkin will have when he finally hangs up his Bauers.

“I never wonder how many,” he said. “I just marvel at watching him as he proceeds on this journey.”

MORE CAPITALS: Rave reviews for Soul On Ice: Past, Present & Future

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Capitals vs. Sharks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Sharks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

It's shaping up to be the Washington Capitals' most important game of the season.

Having lost eight of their last 11 and five straight games for the first time since October-November 2014, the Caps host the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night desperate for a win in their first matchup of the season.

The Sharks (28-16-7) are on a three-game losing streak themselves, losing to the Florida Panthers 6-2 Monday night. Despite their slump, the Sharks rank third in the NHL in scoring this season with 178 goals. 

Ahead of what you could consider a must-win for both teams, here's everything you need to know. 

CAPITALS vs. SHARKS HOW TO WATCH

What: San Jose Sharks at Washington Capitals, 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Sharks at Capitals game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals take on the Sharks on the new MyTeams by NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. SHARKS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Sharks
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live
10:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS vs. SHARKS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
Sharks: D Erik Karlsson (undisclosed injury)

CAPITALS vs. SHARKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Capitals (8 goals, 30 assist, 38 points): Kuznetsov was demoted to the third line ahead of Sunday's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in an effort to spark the slumping offense. Kuzy only has one five-on-five goal this season, and has only one goal and one assist in the last five games. Will Tuesday's matchup bring an end to that trend for the centre? 

Joe Pavelski, C, Sharks (26 goals, 15 assist, 41 points): The Sharks' Captain leads the league's third-highest scoring team with 26 goals this season. However, Pavelski hasn't scored since Jan. 12 against the Ottawa Senators. Expect the centre to be on a mission.

CAPITALS vs. SHARKS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 41 
All-Time Series Record: Sharks lead 27-11-1
Last Meeting: Caps win 2-0 (3/10/18)
Last 10: Sharks lead 6-4

MORE CAPS NEWS: 

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NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

Things have not been going well for the Capitals as of late. They have lost eight of their last 11 and five straight games for the first time since October-November 2014. They can’t score and are porous defensively. That’s not a good combination.

As a result, people are despairing. The team has no talent, the coaches have no idea what they’re doing and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

In this day and age, we all tend to be prisoners of the moment. Will the Capitals come close to winning the Stanley Cup the way they are playing right now? No, of course not. They look terrible.

But let’s not forget, it’s not like last season was without its challenges.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

On Nov. 14 and 16 in 2017, Washington suffered consecutive blowouts at the hands of Nashville and Colorado to drop their record down to 10-9-1. There was talk of whether Barry Trotz would even survive the season. But the Caps rallied.

From Feb. 2 on, Braden Holtby suddenly couldn’t stop a beach ball. He wasn’t even the Caps’ starter the first two games of the playoffs. He got back in net in Game 3 and was brilliant the rest of the playoffs.

Did anyone think Washington would win the Stanley Cup after getting blown out against the Predators and Avalanche? Did anyone think they would win when Holtby was struggling to stop anything in February?

No.

Heck, if you’re mad about how the Caps lost Sunday’s game in Chicago, they lost even worse to the Blackhawks last year 7-1 in February. I sure didn’t think I was watching a Cup winner at that point.

Washington is hardly the only team to suffer such a low point in their season. Look at some of the other contenders across the league. The Caps are only one point behind Toronto which has lost four of its last five, Pittsburgh went through a stretch in which it lost nine out of ten in October/November, Nashville lost six straight from Dec. 17 through Dec. 29, San Jose lost five out of six from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 and Vegas started the season 9-12-1 before they finally turned things around. No one thinks those teams are done. So why should we write off the Caps?

Looking at the playoff race, Washington is only one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the last wild-card spot…but five points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. The season is not lost…yet.
Every team has low points during the season, but it’s January.

There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The return of Barry Trotz came at a bad time for Washington. Because of how he has turned around the Islanders and how the Caps have struggled, that has led many to simply dismiss Todd Reirden as a head coach. Here’s what Reirden has had to deal with to start the season: A 20-game suspension (later reduced) to Tom Wilson, a lineup that has not been 100-percent available at any point this season, simultaneous injuries to Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby, a second injury to Holtby and prolonged injuries to Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. Plus, he’s had to navigate his team coming into a season as the defending champions for the first time in franchise history. The book on Reirden as a head coach is not going to be written based on a January slump. It’s going to be written based on what he does this season as a whole and, even more importantly, on what he does in the playoffs.
     
  • I have seen a few people wonder if the Caps should recall anyone from Hershey, but the simple fact of the matter is that the solution to Washington’s problems is not in the AHL. There are just no difference makers with the Bears right now and adding anyone would be a headache. The Caps have no cap room and two extra forwards already on the roster. To add anyone would mean sending someone back down and exposing them to waivers. Adding Nathan Walker or Shane Gersich to the bottom six is not going to make any difference if Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie can’t score.
     
  • Dmitrij Jaskin needs to stay in the lineup. He can’t finish, but no one can right now. Specifically, among bottom six players, Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly have only one goal in 12 games, Andre Burakovsky has not scored in his last 13, Nic Dowd in his last 16 and Devante Smith-Pelly in his last 23. So really, what offense are you losing by dressing Jaskin? Jaskin, Dowd and Boyd was a very solid line earlier in the season. While Reirden has the line blender out, why not try this one again?


It may be too early to give up on the Caps’ season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sinking the rankings.

Find out where they land here in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. 

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