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Why for Alex Ovechkin, it's all about 'your weapon'

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Why for Alex Ovechkin, it's all about 'your weapon'

After scoring his 500th NHL goal Sunday night against Andrew Hammond and the Ottawa Senators, Alex Ovechkin hugged his teammates, applauded his fans and blew kisses. But where was the love for his hockey stick, which he affectionately calls his “weapon?”

Throughout his 11-year NHL career, Ovechkin has had a mercurial relationship with his stick and by extension its manufacturers.

Ovechkin began his Capitals career with a stick manufactured specifically for him by CCM. Six years later, he switched to Bauer in the summer of 2011.

“Obviously, sticks are changing all the time,” Ovechkin said. “The companies try to do new sticks all the time and they give us new models and new curves and you have to get used to it.  When I scored 65 (in 2007-08) that was the best stick I ever had.

“When you’re a professional hockey player, when you take a stick, you feel it and you know if it’s a good stick. Whether it’s a brand new stick or an old stick, you know. I have lots of sticks in my basement -- like my 50th goal or 60th goal -- and when you pick it up, you know it’s a perfect shaft and a perfect lie and everything’s good.”

Ovechkin said he was happy with CCM until it began changing his stick following that 65-goal season.

“The next year the manufacturer changed it,” he said. “And then the second year and third year. One year they stop making them and you get pissed because this is your stick. It’s your weapon.”

Frustrated, Ovechkin struck a new equipment deal with Bauer in 2011 and has been with them ever since.

“My skates and helmet and everything was good,” Ovechkin said of his CCM equipment, “but I had a problem with the stick. Money is money, but I have to produce with what I have. I’m pretty happy with Bauer and how they treat me with the skates and the helmet.”

Ovechkin treats his stick the way obsessive baseball players treat their bats. Before every game he can be seen in the hallways shaving, bending and blow-drying his sticks with a hot gun, trying to get just the right bend and torque.

“I actually tried using it and I can’t,” said Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie, who is also a right-handed shooter. “I shouldn’t have even touched it. Everything went way over the net. Like over-the-glass high.”

MORE CAPITALS: LOOKING AT CRITICISM OF OVI OVER THE YEARS

Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was in net for Ovechkin’s historic 500th goal as well as the 484th goal that made him the NHL’s all-time leading Russian-born goal scorer, said it’s not just the stick that makes Ovechkin’s shot so hard to stop, but his release.

“His release is not really awkward, but he pulls it back and makes the goalie move,” Grubauer said. “His shot is so accurate and hard that from in close it’s hard to read. Goalies read off the stick and his is especially hard because he pulls it in and snaps it pretty good. And if it’s high it’s going to go in.”

Grubauer used Ovechkin’s overtime winner against the Rangers as an example.

“When he comes down with speed, you don’t know where it’s going,” Grubauer said. “I think (Henrik) Lundqvist thought it was going to go high and all of a sudden he rips it on the ice. The different shots he has are like no other.”

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who spent the first nine years of his NHL career trying to defend against Ovechkin, said no one in the NHL possesses the size, speed, strength and accuracy of Ovechkin.

“I know Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara have those great shots, but I’ve never seen anyone shoot the puck like Ovi does,” Orpik said. “You watch him on the power play. Every team knows exactly what’s coming and you can take him away 99 percent of the time and you leave him open that one time and it’s in the net.

“He’s patient, he waits for his opportunities. But the way the puck comes off his stick, I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t think there’s another guy in the game that has that combination of skill and physicality he does. The way he’s able to move at 240 pounds is pretty impressive.

“You’re kind of waiting for him to slow down and hit a wall and he just kind of ramps it up as the season goes on. It’s pretty impressive to watch.”

Orpik says what amazes him most about Ovechkin is that his strength is equally distributed.

“It’s not like he’s a huge weight room guy, but when we do our testing his strength is just off the charts,” Orpik said. “He’s obviously just a massive guy.”

Ovechkin says that after three straight seasons of using Bauer’s TotalOne, he’s now adapting to a slightly altered version.

“This year they try to do a different logo and I’m still bothering them about it,” Ovechkin said. “Every time they send me new sticks it’s better and better. The most important thing I tell them is that for the playoffs I have to have the perfect stick because to be honest with you if we’re winning (now) I don’t care if I score or not. But in the playoffs it matters.”

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey was fined $8,467.74 for his body slam of T.J. Oshie in Wednesday’s game. It is a punishment that falls well short of the standard the DPS itself set earlier this season.

Late in Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Jets, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared to be dazed after the play which is troubling given his history of concussions.

There is nothing wrong with the initial hit. Both players were battling for the puck making Oshie eligible to be hit. The problem is after the hit when Morrissey slams him to the ice afterward, which is unnecessary and dangerous.

Oh, c’mon, you may be saying, Morrissey was just finishing his check! That’s not an argument anymore considering the DPS already suspended a player for doing the exact same thing earlier this season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community not just because some argued Matheson was finishing his check on a hockey play, but because it was made to look worse by the fact that Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. The DPS didn’t buy it and Matheson was suspended.

If you compare the Morrissey and the Matheson hits, they are very similar. Matheson hits Pettersson with a legal check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. Matheson then slammed Pettersson to the ice after the initial check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. One can quibble somewhat with the fact that Petterrsson’s skates came off the ice making the throw down more violent, but the two plays are similar enough that, in my opinion, it is fair to compare them and the corresponding punishment. In fact, one could easily argue that the Morrissey hit is worse considering he and Oshie are both listed as 195 pounds. Oshie didn’t go down to the ice because of a size disparity, Morrissey had to physically slam him down.

In addition, Morrissey is considered a repeat offender after getting suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a crosscheck to Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal. To be fair, being a repeat offender is not supposed to affect the DPS’s decision on whether a play is worthy of a suspension or not, it is only meant to be taken into consideration when determining the length of a suspension.

But the remains that the DPS was presented with two very similar plays within one month of each other and came up with two completely different punishments. That is more than a little head scratching.

The DPS has one of the toughest jobs in hockey. No matter what they do, most people are going to be unhappy with the decisions they make. It’s the nature of the job when it comes to determining supplemental discipline. Having said that, the one thing people should be able to expect from the DPS is consistency. The Morrissey hit on Oshie seemed like a slam-dunk considering a very similar play happened a month before and resulted in a two-game suspension.

But hey, Caps fans can at least take comfort in the fact that Morrissey was issued the maximum fine allowed by the CBA. So there’s that.

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Capitals prospect report: Axel Jonsson-Fjallby goes home

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Capitals prospect report: Axel Jonsson-Fjallby goes home

Early in October, reports began popping up saying Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was headed back to his native Sweden to play for Djurgardens IF in the SHL. Those reports were refuted by the team which said that he remained in Hershey and had no plans to return to Sweden at that time.

Just over a month later and Jonsson-Fjallby’s move back to Sweden is official. On Tuesday, the Capitals announced he had been loaned to Djurgardens IF.

Jonsson-Fjallby scored two goals and three points in 15 games with the Bears.

While Jonsson-Fjallby was technically loaned by the Caps, it seems clear going back to Sweden was his decision. Capitals Outsider quotes a Bears spokesperson saying, “We are obviously disappointed, but it was Axel’s contractual right.”

To be fair, Jonsson-Fjallby was adjusting to a new country. That’s difficult. You do not know what a player’s specific situation is when it comes to family or how he is adjusting to living in a new place. Having said that, this was not a good move in terms of his NHL career.

Adjusting to the North American game takes time. Going back to Sweden to play the European game obviously delays that transition.

Not every player has to go to the AHL to adjust. Evgeny Kuznetsov was talented enough that the Caps were willing to bring him along straight from the KHL to the bottom six in the NHL as he adjusted and developed. Jonsson-Fjallby, however, is not Kuznetsov.

When Jonsson-Fjallby is finally ready to return to North America, he will now have to start the process of adjusting to the North American game again, putting him behind all the players in the system that are there now.

He may feel like it is the right move to return home personally, but in terms of his hockey career, this was a step in the wrong direction.

Other prospect notes:

  • Jonas Siegenthaler made his NHL debut on Friday with both Brooks Orpik and John Carlson out with injuries. He was impressive in his first game playing alongside Madison Bowey. He played in his second game on Wednesday which ties him for the franchise lead in games played by a Swiss-born player. He remains with the Caps on their current road trip.
  • llya Samsonov started in both of Hershey’s games over the weekend with Vitek Vanecek still out with an upper-body injury. Samsonov won one of those two games bringing his record for the season to 3-5.
  • Nathan Walker returned to Hershey after the Caps placed him on waivers. He scored in his very first game back on Saturday against Springfield. He also got into a fight in his second game back on Sunday.
  • Riley Barber had no goals in the first six games of the season. Now he has five in the past seven. Over the weekend, Barber recorded a goal and an assist in both of Hershey’s games. He now leads the team in points with 11 and sits third in goals behind Liam O’Brien (7) and Mike Sgarbossa (6).
  • Tyler Lewington has racked up 454 career penalty minutes with Hershey, passing Don Cherry who had 424 while with the Bears. He currently sits second in the AHL in penalty minutes with 54. A lot of fans like Lewington because he is not afraid to drop the gloves, but not all of those minutes are from fighting. Lewington also leads the league in minor penalties with 12.
  • With his goal Friday in a win over Rensselaer, Chase Priskie became Quinnipiac’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 29 goals. “It’s great to be in the record books, but at the same time it’s the players that I’ve been able to play with for the last four years,” Priskie said. “Without them, a lot of those goals don’t happen and I can’t give enough praise to the guys I’ve been able to play with that have been able to get me the puck in the right situations. I’ve been able to do the easy part. I just try to come in and do whatever I can to help the team win.”

 

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