Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
|26 декабря 2007
Ovechkin Takes a Shot at 60 Goals // Washington Post
By Tarik El-Bashir
Alex Ovechkin sat at his locker recently, hunched over as he removed his skates and answered questions from reporters. One query in particular, though, caused the Washington Capitals wing to stop unlacing and straighten up.
Alex, can you score 60 goals this season?
"Of course it would be good if I score 60 goals," said Ovechkin after a moment of contemplation. "But it's hard, it's hard."
So hard, in fact, it hasn't been done in 12 years, since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux totaled 69 in 1995-96. But if Ovechkin continues to score at this rate, it's a possibility.
After netting 20 goals in Washington's first 27 games, the 22-year-old's pace has cooled slightly. With the Eastern Conference-worst Capitals set to host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, Ovechkin has 25 tallies in 36 contests, putting him on course to net 57. That would surpass last season's total of 46 and the 52 he notched as a rookie in 2005-06.
But Ovechkin also knows that he'll need to pick it up a bit to gain entrance to the 60-goal club. Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk (29 goals) and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg (25) also are in pursuit of the rare accomplishment.
"I always want to score more goals," Ovechkin said, pausing as veteran center Michael Nylander walked into the locker room.
"Michael Nylander helps me a lot," he said with a chuckle. "He gives me lots of assists. But sometimes he doesn't give me the puck. Come on, Mikey!" Ovechkin turned serious again, adding, "Of course, I always want to keep going up" in goal totals each season.
Interim coach Bruce Boudreau said Ovechkin's mentality in the offensive zone is the biggest reason he's capable of scoring 60.
"He shoots the puck," Boudreau said. "It's always a possibility when you shoot the puck. That's one constant with him, whether he's having a good game or a bad game, he shoots the puck. When you shoot the puck, the law of averages say you're going to score."
Ovechkin leads the league for the third consecutive year in that category with 202 shots on goal. The last shot he took before the three-day break for the holidays came from 35 feet, near the sideboards, and traveled through a morass of sticks and legs before beating New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro with 55 seconds remaining to force overtime and earn the Capitals a point they had no business earning.
Interestingly, Ovechkin's pursuit of a career high in goals comes during a season in which his overall game seems to have matured. Until hitting a recent rough patch in the defensive end, Ovechkin had been leading the Capitals in plus-minus and currently is tied for third at plus-1. He finished with a minus-19 rating last season, worst on the Capitals.
"He's getting older and he's getting smarter," Boudreau said. "North American hockey is different from European hockey. He's learning. He has such an intelligent hockey mind anyway, it only makes sense that he's going to get better."
Ovechkin also has been a more consistent goal scorer this season. He's gone two games without a goal only once this season (Nov. 5-6 at Carolina and Atlanta). He's also accounted for 27 percent of the Capitals' 92 goals, which ranks second behind Kovalchuk, who has scored more than 28 percent of the Thrashers' 101 goals.
Ovechkin's pursuit of 60, though, isn't all that will be worthy of watching over the season's final four months. He's a restricted free agent at season's end, and the only thing either side has said about the on-again, off-again negotiations between management and the player (he is representing himself) is that the talks remain ongoing.
It's believed the Capitals are trying to persuade Ovechkin to take slightly less money, so that the team can sign its other free agents and perhaps add another veteran. If the sides do not come to terms, team officials have given every indication that the Capitals will match any offer from a rival club.
"I've only known him for 30 days," Boudreau said of Ovechkin. "But he looks to me like a guy who wants to be as good a defensive player as there is, as good an offensive player as there is, as good a passer as there is, as good a teammate as there is. He's going to be as good as he wants to be."
Yeah, but can he score 60?