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How a long chat in Vegas changed Ovechkin


How a long chat in Vegas changed Ovechkin

NEW YORK - Among other things, Capitals coach Barry Trotz is a storyteller. So, after seeing Alex Ovechkin dominate the Rangers with an Ovi-esque goal and a Gretzky-esque pass from behind the net in the Caps’ thrilling 2-1 win over the Rangers on Thursday night, Trotz pulled the curtain back on his first sit-down with his 29-year-old captain.

It occurred in Las Vegas, of all places.

“I met him in Vegas for the NHL awards,” Trotz recalled. “We spent probably four or five hours. I had about 45 or 50 questions.”

Right then and there, Ovechkin had a choice to make. With seven years and $70 million remaining on his 13-year, $124 million contract with the Capitals, Ovechkin could have smiled politely at Trotz, gotten up from wherever they were sitting, and enjoyed the sights and sounds and tastes of Vegas.

Instead, he listened to the constructive criticisms from Trotz that must have tasted like dirty water.

“Really, what I told him is that I wanted him to be more active,” Trotz said. “I thought he had too much glide in his game. When I was in the other conference we talked about how he wasn’t skating and how easy he is to cover.”

Trotz’s directive with Ovechkin was fairly simple. When Ovechkin had the puck he could be as creative as he wanted. But when he did not have the puck, he needed to do what Trotz wanted of him. And that meant doing all the hard things that well-rounded hockey players do – backchecking, using his body in the defensive zone, finishing checks, and yes, blocking shots when necessary.

The result, of course, was a league-leading 53 goals and an incredible plus-45 improvement in his plus-minus ratio, from a minus-35 last season to a plus-10 this season.

And in Game 1 against the Rangers, the new Alex Ovechkin was pretty much unstoppable.

Matched against the Rangers’ top line of Rick Nash, Derrick Brassard and Marty St. Louis, along with the dynamic duo defense pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, the Caps’ top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Joel Ward were dominant.

Given more open ice than he had seen in any game against the Islanders in Round 1, Ovechkin opened the scoring late in the first period on the power play, using Dan Boyle as a screen and blasting a shot past Henrik Lundqvist and just under the crossbar.

“I don’t see too many goalies stopping that, to be honest,” Ward said. “If you give us all 100 pucks no one’s going to hit that spot. What a beast he is. And what a shot.”

But it wasn’t just Ovechkin’s powerful shot that had the Rangers licking their wounds on Thursday night. And it wasn’t just that extraordinary pass Ovechkin made to Ward from behind the net, a reverse pass that caught everyone, including Lundqvist, by surprise.

Ovechkin had 12 shot attempts in Game 1 – six on net, three misses and three that were blocked. And as Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein learned when his left arm was broken by an Ovechkin slapshot on March 11, there is an inherent risk in stepping in front of one of those slapshots.

By the way, Ovechkin also blocked a shot in Game 1 and was noticeable on nearly every shift, so much so that Trotz began double shifting him following TV timeouts.

That trust dates all the way back to that warm afternoon in Vegs, when Trotz learned something about Ovechkin he never knew.

“He’s a guy that I think was maybe a little miscast in the past,” Trotz said. “Ovi is one of those guys that really wants to win. He’s won virtually every award you can win individually and I think he’s at a real good time in his career, and I think we’re going to benefit from that.

“Now he wants to do something team-wise. For him to grow as a leader, that was my mandate with him. I’m going to share all my experiences with him and teach him how to lead and he’s bought in.”

It’s worth keeping in mind that Trotz and Ovechkin have something else in common. Neither has made it past the second round of the playoffs.

Thanks to that long chat in Vegas and the long days that followed, they are now three wins away from checking that item off their career bucket list. 

RELATED: [Backstrom defends hit that led to game-winner]

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Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

USA Today Sports

Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

Friday featured Dmitry Orlov and his jam-packed schedule with the coveted Stanley Cup.

The 27-year-old native of Russia decided to take the Cup to Novokuznetsk (located in the southwest region of Siberia) for a meet and greet with fans by the Ferris wheel at Gagarin City Park.

It should be mentioned that Orlov's day with the trophy was nearly derailed after a travel glitch that sent the Cup to Novosibirsk instead of his hometown. 

Thanks to the ultimate assist from a helicopter, the Cup arrived in style and set up one memorable entrance for the defenseman. 

Orlov released this hype video which highlights his entire day on Instagram: 

Дорогие друзья! Огромное спасибо, что разделили с нами наш праздник! Для нас это значимое и большое событие! Ещё раз приносим искренние извинения за задержку с кубком! И спасибо за понимание, мы старались сделать все максимально быстро! Спасибо за тёплый приём! Нашим родным, друзьям, тренерам, отдельная благодарность! Вы сделали наш праздник, наш день! Мы никогда не забудем этот праздник! P.S. Лена @govor_elena , тебе и твоим родным, отдельная благодарность, если бы не ваша помощь, то не известно когда бы кубок был в Новокузнецке!

A post shared by Dmitry Orlov (@orlov_09) on

Talk about a banner weekend for the Washington Capitals. The Ovechkins welcomed their new son, Sergei Aleksandrovich, into the world and Orlov pulled off yet another spectacular day with the Cup.



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Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

NBC Sports Washington/USATSI

Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

After lifting the Stanley Cup just over two months ago, something else very exciting has happened in Alex Ovechkin's life.

Saturday morning, Nastya and Alex Ovechkin welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Sergei, after Ovechkin's late brother. 

Ovi spent this week practicing at the Florida Panthers' facilities with other NHL players living in the surrounding area.

After the Cup's visit to Moscow, Nastya and Alex settled down at their apartment in Miami, staying put and preparing for the birth. 

The couple were married two years ago but didn't hold an official ceremony until July of last year. The celebration was as lavish as you'd expect.

She revealed her pregnancy shortly after the Cup victory, and has kept us up to date on life this summer via Instagram. A few weeks ago, the Ovechkins graced HELLO! Russia magazine, showing off Nastya's baby bump among their glamour shots.

💛 @aleksandrovechkinofficial #hello #hellorussia @hello__ru

A post shared by Nastasiya Ovechkina (@nastyashubskaya) on

Congratulations to Ovi and Nastya, and all our best wishes for health and happiness!