Alex Ovechkin flew down the ice toward New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and it looked like the old days, when the Washington Capitals captain was a superstar and scored 50 goals a year. Except the puck didn’t go in the net.
Ovechkin came up empty on three breakaways in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Devils, but he looked impressive nonetheless.
“Ovi I think he had a great game last game; he created a lot of chances,” Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk said. “He really want to do it, I can see in his eyes he was trying his best last game. He was flying around trying to hit the guys, shot the puck, couple breakaways. It’s going to go in.”
It has only gone in for Ovechkin five times in the Caps’ first 16 games. That’s a 15-goal pace in this shortened season.
But the most recent game showed flashes of what Ovechkin could do as he adapts to playing on right wing and makes the same switch as Kovalchuk did a year ago.
Coach Adam Oates pointed out that Ovechkin wasn’t able to finish on the breakaways, even as he praised the effort. Twice Ovechkin drew a penalty and the other time he blamed a bouncing puck for missing the net entirely.
“Ovi has a breakaway with a minute left in the second period,” Oates said Friday. “If he scores, then we have a two goal lead and our best player scores to get him in the game, so there are a lot of positives right there, but he didn’t.”
That Ovechkin is getting into open ice and generating scoring chances from the right side is encouraging. But it continues to be a work in progress.
“I’m still same moves. It’s just a different angle,” Ovechkin said. “I have more opportunities because I take a couple steps in the middle. Usually I always go to the right; right now I can go to the left and right. I get used to playing on right wing. If I have a puck in full speed, I feel pretty comfortable.”
Ovechkin is doing so many things correctly right now, but goal-scoring hasn’t come as naturally as in the past. That’s an oddity of what’s going on right now with the 27-year-old.
“Yeah, you’ve got to be a complete player and you’ve got to grow as a player and you’ve got to get better and he’s no different than everybody,” Oates said. “The good thing is that he wants to. Kovalchuk got his sixth last night and that’s surprising as well, right? And he’s getting 10 shots a night as well.”
Before the Caps got themselves into penalty trouble against the Devils on Thursday, Ovechkin was feeling his game. Then he played just 6:09 in the third period.
“You’re in a game, you feel the puck, you feel the game and then you get so many penalties and you just sit there without nothing,” Ovechkin said. “It’s hard. But nothing you can do with it.”
Ovechkin wasn’t able to produce anything with his chances, his eighth game of the season without a point. But Oates believes Ovechkin will start scoring at a more fervent pace.
“I have faith that he will,” Oates said. “He has and we all know that he will and I’m glad that he got three opportunities in the second [period] all alone, which means that the puck is falling his way a little bit because we’re doing the right things.”
Just from watching Thursday night, Kovalchuk sees the same thing.
“He was doing that to go across, get the puck with speed and when he got the puck with speed it’s tough to be defenseman,” Kovalchuk said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be OK.”