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Why Oshie is feeling like 'a kid in a candy store'

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Why Oshie is feeling like 'a kid in a candy store'

To the casual hockey fan, T.J. Oshie is the guy with the crazy-good shootout moves who gained fame by scoring on four of six shootout attempts to lead the Americans to an Olympic victory over the Russians. [That was the second game of the tournament, by the way].

His Olympic shootout prowess earned him a phone call from President Obama and a guest spot on the Today Show, not to mention a comical Enterprise television commercial in which he shoots pucks through the legs of an unassuming guy in a suit.

But there is more to T.J. Oshie than Olympic fame.

There is a desire to write a different script than his NHL career has followed – namely, getting to the playoffs only to fall short.

That is the familiar crossroad where Oshie and the Capitals will meet now that they traded right wing Troy Brouwer, goalie Pheonix Copley and next year’s third-round pick for the talented, 28-year-old right wing.

As a member of the St. Louis Blues, Oshie has been to the playoffs four straight springs, but has been sent home after the first round three times and afer the second round twice.

So when it was announced that Ken Hitchcock would return as head coach after a first-round playoff loss to the Wild, Oshie knew he could be packing his bags.

“I felt like it was a very good possibility,” Oshie said Thursday night on a conference call with reporters. “I felt if we went back with the same team we would have done a good job [next season] and hopefully learned from some of our mistakes. But after I found out Hitch was coming back I figured there’d be at least one or two moves.”

Oshie said he’ll miss his friends and teammates in St. Louis, but he’s excited to turn the page in a career that has teetered on greatness without ever getting there. In seven seasons in St. Louis, Oshie has never scored more than 21 goals or scored more than 60 points, and in the playoffs, his 0.30 points per game are well off his regular season output of 0.70 points per game.

He hopes to change that history in Washington, where he’ll battle Justin Williams for the right to play alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

“I expected big things out of myself [in St. Louis] and I think the fans did as well. There’s a lot of disappointment after the way we lost out. … I think fans thought me and [Hitchcock] had a bad relationship or something like that. But changes had to be made and I couldn’t be more excited about going to Washington.

“I know in Washington they have some really good players on that roster. I’m looking to fit in wherever they think is the best fit for me. Coming in as the new guy I’m willing to go in there and earn my ice time and show them what I can do.”

If that means playing alongside Olympic rivals Ovechkin and Backstrom, Oshie said he can’t wait to get started.

“It would be something I never experienced before,” he said. “I’ve always played with very good players, players that have played in the Olympics, but never players that put up numbers like those two guys have. To get out there with them would be amazing, I’d feel like a kid in a candy store with that caliber of players. But I’m willing to come in and earn all the ice time I can get.”

At 5-foot-11, 189 pounds, Oshie is a smaller player than Brouwer, but he plays a big, in-your-face game that fans in St. Louis grew to like. Oshie is also more creative than Brouwer, capable of scoring from tight areas and also finding linemates with a quick pass.

And, of course, there’s always his patented shootout moves, which made him a fan favorite around the world. Oshie was asked if his role as a shootout specialist [he went just 4-for-11 last season] might be diminished with the advent of 3-on-3 overtimes.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to score more goals in overtime and regulation to make up for that,” Oshie said. “I think the new format is going to be exciting and if it ends up going to a shootout that’s great for me.”

Oshie said he’s also excited to be reunited with former North Dakota teammate Taylor Chorney, whom the Caps signed on Wednesday to help bolster their defense.

“He’s one of the first people I texted after my fiancé and my parents,” Oshie said. “I’m very excited for him and it’ll be nice to have that NoDak brotherhood going to Washington.”

[RELATED: Caps trade for former Olympic hero]   

  

 

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Could this be the best season of Alex Ovechkin’s career?

Could this be the best season of Alex Ovechkin’s career?

The NHL is rapidly becoming a young man’s game. Just look at the most dominant players in the league. Connor McDavid is the best player in the world at 21. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon sit No. 1 and 2 in points in the league at the ages of 22 and 23 respectively. The Toronto Maple Leafs are taking the league by storm with a pair of 21-year-olds in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading the way. Patrik Laine, 20, is one of the top goal scorers in the league and Brayden Point, 22, may be the best player on a loaded Tampa Bay roster.

Sitting above all those players, however, and atop the league in goals is the 33-year-old Alex Ovechkin.

“He is having a great start to the year,” head coach Todd Reirden said Tuesday. “In particular it's been his five-on-five play, converting on his chances and taking advantage of some fortunate breaks that went his way tonight, but he's earning. He's earning it and he's doing things the right way and he's been a great leader for us so far this year. Can't say enough about the year he's having.”

Ovechkin now has a four-goal lead in the goal-scoring race as he scored Nos. 23, 24 and 25 with his 21st career hat trick on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the seventh time last season as the league’s leading goal scorer. He did not reach 25 goals until game No. 41 on Jan. 2 and that’s after he spotted himself seven goals in the first two games of the season. In 2007-08 – the season in which Ovechkin lit the lamp a career-high 65 times – he did not reach 25 goals until game No. 36 on Dec. 22.

Thursday’s game was just Washington’s 30th of the season.

Ovechkin is currently enjoying a 12-game point streak that has seen him compile 19 points during that stretch, the second-longest streak of his career. Of those 19 points, only one has come on the power play.

With 39 points on the season, Ovechkin ranks tied for seventh in the NHL.

Is his current goal-scoring pace sustainable? Perhaps not. For his career, Ovechkin has a shooting percentage of 12.6-percent. For the season, he is shooting at 21.6-percent. But he is also taking fewer shots.

Ovechkin is currently shooting 3.87 shots per game, the second lowest rate of his career. If that holds, it will be only the third time in his career he has averaged fewer than four shots per game in a season.

So for those arguing that Ovechkin’s shooting percentage is bound to decline, there’s also a case to be made that he is also likely to start taking more shots which would help keep his goal-scoring pace up.

But the fact that we are even talking about this is remarkable in and of itself. While most players begin to physically decline in their early 30s, Ovechkin could be putting together the best season of his career at 33. That is absolutely remarkable considering the physical style in which he plays and all the miles he has put in with the Olympics, playoffs and 12 NHL seasons of over 70 games. Excluding the lockout-shortened season, the fewest number of games he has played in a season is 72.

Ovechkin has never missed more than 10 games in a single season. Ever.

So while the pundits argue over whether players like McDavid, Matthews or MacKinnon are the best in the league, don’t forget about the 33-year-old who is outscoring them all and who now also has a Stanley Cup ring to go with his already storied career.

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Ovechkin’s hat trick keeps Capitals rolling in 6-2 win against Red Wings

Ovechkin’s hat trick keeps Capitals rolling in 6-2 win against Red Wings

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The stars came out for the Capitals on Tuesday night. 

There was Alex Ovechkin continuing his marvelous age-33 season with a hat trick, his first since Nov. 25, 2017. Nicklas Backstrom had four more assists. That’s his second four-point game in six games. T.J. Oshie returned from an 11-game absence (concussion) and scored on the power play. Evgeny Kuznetsov set up two goals. 

Anything else?

It all added up to a 6-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings and Washington is rolling. With that kind of firepower why wouldn’t it be? The Caps have won 11 of their past 14 games. At 18-9-3 and with 39 points, Washington is in first place in the Metropolitan Division and has a chance to build on that lead with five of its final eight games of 2018 at home. 

It didn’t hurt that the second-place Columbus Blue Jackets coughed up a 2-1 lead to the Vancouver Canucks at home Tuesday, allowing two goals in the final five minutes to lose 3-2 in regulation. The Blue Jackets are stuck on 34 points and suddenly the Capitals have a five-point lead in the division. 

“The season is all progress,” Backstrom said. “You keep building your team getting all the roles intact. Lately the last couple of games we’ve been playing good hockey, we’ve been playing with a lot of speed, we’ve been playing quick. That’s when we’re hard to play against, I think.”

The recent hot streak starts with Ovechkin, in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. It was his 126th multi-goal game and he passed former Washington forward Dino Ciccarelli (125) for the 11th-most in league history.

“I’ll take it,” Ovechkin said. “Couple lucky goals.”

Ovechkin has points in 12 straight games (13 goals, six assists) and 18 of his 19 points during that stretch have come at even strength – with admittedly a few empty-net tallies tossed in for good measure. He extended his NHL lead to 25 goals – four ahead of Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point (21).  

If Ovechkin records a point against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday he will tie his career best of 13 games set between Dec. 30, 2006 and Feb. 1, 2007. That was the year before this incredible run of sustained success began with Washington’s first playoff berth in the Ovechkin era. They didn’t even wear red uniforms back then. Ovechkin ranks eighth in points (38) in the NHL through 30 games. 

“I don’t watch much hockey so I can only go off the years I’ve been here but he’s playing outstanding,” Oshie said.

“At that level that he got himself to last year right at the start of the year … he’s really just kept building off that. It’s fun being on this side of that when Big O is going like that. It’s a privilege to play with him out there and you think maybe there are not other ways he can kind of amaze you and wow you but there was another example tonight.”

Last year, he didn’t get to 39 points until Dec. 30, which was game No. 40. He had three assists that night against the New Jersey Devils and ended that game at 41 points. He didn’t get to 25 goals until a Jan. 2 game against Carolina, which was Game No. 41. Ovechkin finished with 87 points (49 goals, 38 assists) and is well ahead of that pace and halfway to his magic number of 50.   

“The age he's at to still continue to not only want to get better, but to be able to,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said.

“After just the way he's played the game with such a physical presence and the energy he has and the size he is, it's not easy. He's been great in our room, the leadership is really stepped up for me, the best I've seen him lead in our room during the regular season. And then his overall play is following right along with it. I know some other years statistically have been better, but for me it's his best two-way hockey that he's played.” 

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