Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
Let's give Ovechkin his due. He delivered in the moment for the home fans by getting his 1,000th NHL point on Wednesday. He didn't just score one goal; he had two, giving him 1,001 points. Ovechkin will go down as one of the most prolific Russian-born players ever and one of the best goal-scorers we've ever seen. The fact that he did it against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby was also appropriate, since we all know about their rivalry throughout the years.
We could be here for a while if we listed all of Ovechkin's milestones and trophies and records, so I won't do that. He has had plenty of 50-goal seasons before and has 21 goals through 41 games this season. He's not on pace for 50 and is seeing less ice time per game, something that Ovechkin said coach Barry Trotz talked to him about to keep him fresher for the playoffs. We all know how much he wants to win a Stanley Cup, and the Capitals haven't been as far as the conference final since 1998, when they made their lone trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Ovechkin scored his 500th NHL goal last season, and it won't be long before he gets Nos. 600 and 700. The points and milestones will keep coming for one of the all-time greats.
Video: NHL Tonight breaks down Ovechkin's iconic milestone
Although they lost 5-4 in a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Canucks have been really good lately; they won six in a row before losing three straight. Goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have played well, getting wins even when the Canucks haven't been able to muster much offense. Miller (352 victories) is closing in on the record for most wins by a United States-born goalie; John Vanbiesbrouck holds the record with 374.
But as coach Willie Desjardins told me last week, it's a progression of some of their younger players like forward Markus Granlund (two goals Thursday) and defenseman Troy Stetcher, as well as center Bo Horvat (13 goals, 29 points) who continues to get better; he's the Canucks' representative for the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game.
Now let's turn to the Flames, especially Matthew Tkachuk. Everybody else got out of the gate fast in the rookie class (Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine), but Tkachuk had a tougher road and was a healthy scratch at times. But now he's tied for second on the team in scoring (27 points, including eight goals) and leads the Flames in penalty minutes (76) as a 19-year-old. He drags other guys into the battle. From watching him in the Ontario Hockey League season, I get the impression coaches don't ever have to tell him to play hard. Clearly it's hereditary (his dad, Keith Tkachuk, obviously having played in the NHL). But for him to be leading the team in penalty minutes at his age, that is pretty spectacular.
Video: SJS@CGY: Tkachuk deflects Backlund's shot in for PPG
Tampa Bay Lightning
Even with the injuries they've had, the Lightning really should be better. They have allowed 129 goals, tied for fourth-most in the League, including six goals in three of the past five games. They are in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and out of a playoff spot. This isn't where we expected them to be, especially after making the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and the Eastern Conference Final last season
Ben Bishop returned Thursday and made 24 saves in a win against Buffalo, and hopefully he can turn things around for them. Steven Stamkos may not be in the lineup, but Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat, just to name a few, are playing. Tampa Bay should have more wins and be playing more consistently than it has been.
Patrick Maroon was a great signing by general manager Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers. He's a big guy who wants to play big; take a look at this goal he scored Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, when he bullied two guys out of the way to score. Maroon has a career-high 17 goals. The fact that he's playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and playing well says a lot.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter has been very good under the tutelage of assistant coach Scott Stevens. He would be the second-best defenseman right now for me. Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks has to be No. 1. Burns has scored 17 goals and has 44 points in 42 games; he's on a faster scoring pace than last season, when he scored 27 goals and finished with75 points in 82 games.