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|22 ноября 2006
Ovechkin Shows Less Flash, but More Game // Washington Post
By Tarik El-Bashir
Two months ago, everyone wanted to know what Alex Ovechkin was going to do for an encore to his 106-point rookie season.
The answer has emerged in recent days: fewer highlights, more substance.
"He's becoming a more complete player," said center Dainius Zubrus, who plays alongside Ovechkin and rooms with him on the road. "His best game now isn't when he scores two goals. It's when he puts together a solid, all-around game."
Coach Glen Hanlon called Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss in Boston "Ovie's best game as a Capital." And not just because Ovechkin evened the score with 3 minutes 1 second left in regulation.
"Defensively, Ovie was perfect," Hanlon said. "And yet he still managed to do all the other things. Even that first [Bruins] goal wasn't his fault. He kept his guy wide so he couldn't cut to the net. . . . Alex was sensational."
In Monday's defensive zone meeting, "we showed four great clips of Ovie coming back and being in the right spot," Hanlon added. "His whole game is way better" compared with last season.
Ovechkin's increased dedication to getting back on defense hasn't cost him at the other end. In fact, entering tonight's game against the Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon Center, the 21-year-old has 13 goals and 23 points, two more than he had through 20 games a year ago.
"When you play hockey, you can't play for yourself, you must play for your team," Ovechkin said. "Coach tell me if you want to become good player, you must play defense. Sometimes I'm not score, but team has points. That's very important for us."
Ovechkin is also sharing the puck more. This season, instead of lowering his shoulder and attempting to skate through an opposing defenseman, the powerful left wing has raised his head and looked for an open teammate. His linemates, Zubrus and Chris Clark, have 18 and 16 points, respectively, putting them on pace to again set career highs.
"He plays the give-and-go, finds open space and is not always just trying to collect the puck and skate the length of the ice or just use speed," Hanlon said.
Zubrus added: "He picks his spots better. He knows when to wind it up and go, and when to use his linemates."
Ovechkin's fans, however, may have noticed the downside to their favorite player becoming more well-rounded: His YouTube appeal has slipped slightly, which is just fine with General Manager George McPhee.
"Teams adjust, the league adjusts," McPhee said. "And then the player has to make adjustments.
"We saw it with Pavel Bure in Vancouver years ago. He came in and scored a lot, but the league adjusted to him, so he made some changes to his game and became a better player."
Capitals Notes: Clark, Zubrus and Steve Eminger -- each of whom missed Saturday's game in Boston because of injuries -- practiced yesterday and are expected to return to the lineup tonight against Atlanta. Meantime, Alexander Semin, on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury, is out at least until Saturday. . . . Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin rank first and second, respectively, among Eastern Conference players with 83,664 votes and 63,921 votes for the Jan. 24 All-Star Game. More than 2.8 million votes were cast in the first six days, the league said.