Since he first began terrorizing goalies as a teenager, Alex Ovechkin has always judged himself on the number of goals he’s scored. And for the most part, so has everyone else.
Ovechkin enters tonight’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings [6:30 p.m. Caps Central, CSN] with a league-leading 46 goals, nine more than his closest challenger, Anaheim’s Corey Perry.
Ovechkin could probably go the final 10 games without a goal and he’d still win his fourth Rocket Richard Trophy.
The challenge, Ovechkin says, is finding satisfaction when he’s not scoring goals.
“A situation like this, of course you think about the goals,” said Ovechkin, who has two goals in his last nine games. “But the most important thing you think about is to win the game. If I’m not scoring I just need to do some different things.”
Like blocking shots, which he did late in Saturday night’s win over the San Jose Sharks. And wearing down opponents with hard, physical shifts alongside north-south center Jay Beagle and left wing Marcus Johansson.
“You know, I love to score goals,” Ovechkin said. “And if I didn’t score goals and I didn’t have chances, that’s a problem. But I have chances and we’ve played solid. That’s the most important thing. We don’t give up goals against us and we try to put pressure on their defense.”
Ovechkin has not scored an even-strength goal in 12 games. If he goes without one tonight against the Kings it will match his career high for consecutive games without an even-strength goal.
Some critics are quick to point a finger at Beagle, a less creative and more straight-forward center than Nicklas Backstrom. In 67 even-strength minutes alongside Beagle, Ovechkin has no points and 10 shots.
On the flip side, the Caps’ top line has not been on the ice for an even-strength goal since Beagle replaced Backstrom three games ago.
“He’s a hard-working guy,” Ovechkin said of Beagle. “Sometimes he goes to the offensive zone and if he doesn’t have any space he can see right away and he’ll go back and play defense. That’s a good thing with him.”
And if you believe the message being preached by Adam Oates, it’s a good thing for the Capitals if they hope to get into the playoffs for the seventh straight spring.
“This team hasn’t had success in the past because we allowed three or four or five goals a night,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We’re trying to cut that down. We still need to cut down our shots, almost in half. We’re giving up almost 40 a night.”
Actually, the Caps are allowing 33.5 shots per game, which ranks 27th in the NHL, and have allowed 30 or more shots in 10 of their last 13 games.
“To win in the playoffs you have to be able to play defensively and be consistently good playing defensively,” Brouwer said. “That’s why L.A.’s had success the past few years. They haven’t scored a lot of goals [ranking 27th with 2.36 per game] but as long as you can keep teams down to one or two goals a game [the Kings rank first at 2.04] you always give yourselves a chance to win.”