On Tuesday, Ovechkin and the Capitals learned that the 20-year-old left wing was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for December. When we talked with Ovechkin after Tuesday’s practice, the Rookie of the Month honor had not yet been announced. He was pleased with the news of the Offensive Player of the Week award.
“I [learned] this news today, when I came here,” said Ovechkin. “Matt Pettinger told me. I am glad and I wish I would play this way all season and to play even better.”
Ovechkin totaled seven points (four goals, three assists) in four games last week to earn Offensive Player of the Week honors. He recorded multiple points in three of the four games and has 13 multiple-point efforts on the season. Ovechkin is currently in the midst of a six-game goal scoring streak, the longest by any Capital since Andrew Brunette scored in six straight from Dec. 29, 1997 through Jan. 9, 1998.
Ovechkin told us today that he feels the same on the ice whether the goals are coming in bunches or not.
“I feel the same,” he said. “When I have chances, sometimes I just shoot the puck and the puck goes in the net. Maybe it’s lucky. When I don’t score in six or seven games, I have great chances but I don’t know. I can’t score. Right now, I feel very good.”
Ovechkin led all NHL rookies in scoring with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in a dozen December games. He also paces all freshmen in scoring on the season with 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists). Ovechkin’s point total is the most by a Capitals’ rookie since Milan Novy notched 48 in 1982-83. Bobby Carpenter established the franchise rookie record for goals (32) and points (67) in 1981-82.
Ovechkin is only the second Capitals rookie ever to win Player of the Week honors and the first since goaltender Jim Carey, who earned recognition for the week of Mar. 15, 1995. Before Ovechkin was honored, the last Capital to earn Player of the Week honors was Jeff Halpern
on Apr. 4, 2004.
Ovechkin is the fifth Caps rookie to win Rookie of the Month honors, joining Bob Mason (Dec. 1984), Peter Bondra (Nov. 1990), Carey (Mar. 1995) and Halpern (Mar. 2000). Mettle for Medal –
With a tie against Switzerland and a loss to Canada in the preliminary round, Team USA left itself a difficult road in its efforts to win a second gold medal in three years at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver.
Playing their third game in four nights, the Americans went up against the Czech Republic and its elite goaltender, Marek Schwarz in a quarterfinal elimination game on Monday night. Early goals by Phil Kessel and Chris Bourque
gave Team USA a 2-0 lead. Just over a minute after Bourque’s goal, the Czech Republic got on the board via Ladislav Smid’s power play goal.
Team USA goaltender Cory Schneider kept the Czechs off the board the rest of the way, getting plenty of help from the Americans’ plucky penalty killers. Schneider and the penalty killers made Bourque’s goal – his seventh of the tournament – stand up as the game-winner.
Bourque is now just one goal shy of matching Jeremy Roenick’s all-time Team USA tournament record of eight goals, set in 1989.
“It’s just an honor to able to represent your country for a second time,” Bourque told us just before he departed for Vancouver in mid-December. “I am really excited about. It’s going to be a really good experience and hopefully it will help my game out.”
Bourque had been playing on a line with Kessel and Kevin Porter, but T.J. Oshie took Porter’s place on that line for Monday’s game. The Americans were favorites going into the tournament, but will have to take down a tough Russian team led by Evgeni Malkin in order to have a chance at the gold.
“It is kind of weird being the favorites,” admitted Bourque. “There is a little more pressure and having it in Canada also adds a little more pressure. We have a good team and I think we’ll be able to handle it. Hopefully we will be able to come out on top.”
Team USA faces Team Russia tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 3) at 11 pm Eastern time. The game will be Team USA’s fourth in five nights; Russia got a bye in the medal round and has been idle since it forged a convincing 7-2 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday. The winner will play the victor of Tuesday’s Canada/Finland contest in Thursday’s gold medal game. The losers of those two games will face-off on Thursday to play for the bronze medal.
Tuesday night’s USA/Russia game will be telecast live on Fox Sports Net North, beginning at 11 pm, EST.A Global Game –
During the NHL lockout, Islanders’ general manager Mike Milbury traveled to China to investigate opportunities in the Asian Hockey League on behalf of Isles owner Charles Wang. Wang lived in China until he was eight.
Milbury was touched by the country’s passion for the sport and also by how far they lagged behind their Asian neighbors. The Islanders subsequently opened an office in Harbin, China with the mission of supporting the growth of the game there and promoting youth hockey and the women’s national team.
Last week, some of the fruit of that labor was on display in Ottawa. Sponsored by Milbury, 10 NHL teams (including the Capitals), several Islanders’ season-ticket holders and others, two teams of minor hockey players from China arrived in North America last week. Thirty-four 9-to-11-year-olds arrived in Newark and then made their way to Ottawa to participate in the seventh annual Bell Capital Cup. Courtesy of Nike-Bauer, each of the players received a new set of equipment; the company is also shipping 300 more sets of equipment back to China for distribution there.
Over the weekend, Kerry Gwydir, Islanders’ assistant manager of hockey operations, sent an e-mail to Caps general manager George McPhee to update him on the players’ experiences. Here is the text of that e-mail and McPhee’s reply:
Mike Milbury wanted me to send you updates from some of the Chinese player perspective as the trip that you and Mike put together commences. Here is some of what Harbin player Zhu Ziyang, the 10-year old captain of his team, wanted to say to you. I had an interpreter obviously help me with this. Below are some of the thoughts he wanted me to write you about.
"This is the first time that I've traveled out of my country and I want to thank you for donating to our trip. My teammates and I have not been able to sleep much because we are very excited.
"I got to play at the Corel Centre and had four goals. I'm a defenseman, so hopefully you think that is good!
"On the flight, I got to see the Statue of Liberty as we arrived at the airport. I'm hoping you can talk Mr. Milbury into letting us go there.
"American food is a little different for us because we've never eaten cookies or [potato chips] before. But some of the families that we are staying with made us soup and noodles today. We also bowled and have met some very nice people up here. We can't thank you enough."
It is very nice to hear from you. We are very happy to learn that you are enjoying your time in North America.
Congratulations on your fine play. You must be the only player who is not an Ottawa Senator to score four goals at the Corel Center this season.
Make sure you eat some good food. A good steak or turkey dinner followed by some apple pie and ice cream will work. Leave the potato chips and cookies for Mr. Milbury.
Personally and on behalf of the Washington Capitals, we are very excited for you and wish you much success. Mr. Milbury has done a terrific job and we are grateful to him for allowing us to help.
George McPheeTough Guy –
Defenseman Joe Finley, Washington’s second choice (first round, 27th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, had his freshman season at the University of North Dakota interrupted a few weeks back when he suffered a broken arm. Not only did Finley take a few shifts after suffering the break to a bone in his left arm, he returned to the Fighting Sioux lineup less than three weeks after the injury occurred. Finley returned to action last weekend, playing with a small cast on his arm as North Dakota took on Harvard on Dec. 29-30.