For a man who signed a record $126 million dollar contract in the offseason, Alex Ovechkin is a marked man in the National Hockey League.
Ovechkin, the reigning Hart Memorial Trophy winner, which is given to the most valuable player in the NHL, has given a lot of teams problems in his three-plus seasons with the Washington Capitals.
In 251 career games, Ovechkin has 314 points including 165 goals. In two games against Phoenix, the native of Moscow has registered two goals and two assists.
“It’s always fun to show the greatest player in history you can play hockey,” said Ovechkin, referring to Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. “I enjoy playing against every team especially when they have great players (and) especially when … Wayne Gretzky is coaching.”
Ovechkin, one of two superstars in the NHL along with Sidney Crosby, has backed up his off-ice league promotions with an on-ice prowess that draws attention daily.
Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau realizes it’s a blessing that he can rely on one of the most talented players in the NHL.
“Just when you think that things are getting complacent and normal, he will do something special and that’s just the way he has been,” said Boudreau, who is in his first full season as the Capitals head coach. “Nothing surprises me.”
|Washington's Alex Ovechkin lines up a shot on Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff on Tuesday night. (Jeff McIntosh/AP) |
Matched up against the best defensemen nightly, Ovechkin continues to play at an elite level that Gretzky respects.
“He is a tremendous hockey player, plays the game at a high level with a great deal of intensity,” Gretzky said.
Gretzky and the Coyotes will have their hands full dealing with Ovechkin on Thursday night.
“He plays so many minutes, so many hard minutes that we’ll try to match two lines against him instead of one,” Gretzky said.
Capitals center Sergei Fedorov was a highly touted player when he defected into the league with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990-91 season. He understands the expectations that Ovechkin carries nightly for his hockey team.
“I think the expectations come with the territory,” said Fedorov, who has a goal and four assists in six games. “He is a good player all around. He just needs to relax and not put too much pressure on himself, which happens to players after big seasons.”
With all the pressure that comes with being one of the top players in the NHL, Ovechkin just tries to have fun.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” said Ovechkin, who has two goals and two assists in six games this season. “I’ve been here three years and I don’t feel pressure. I just enjoy the time I play hockey. It’s my life and I’m enjoying it.”