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Ovechkin scored 600 goals using 'unsavable' shot

NHL goalies say stick-bending one-timer reason Capitals forward reached milestone

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

The most impressive part of Alex Ovechkin scoring 600 NHL goals might be how many of them have come from his signature shot.

The Washington Capitals forward has scored 225 power-play goals on his way to the milestone, and many looked the same: The left wing hovering somewhere near the top of the left face-off circle and leaning all of his 235 pounds into a stick-bending one-timer after taking a cross-ice pass.

It's a shot everyone in the rink knows is coming. Yet it still goes in.

 

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"I truly think when he hits his spot it's kind of an almost unsavable shot," St. Louis Blues goalie Carter Hutton said after getting beat by the one-timer Jan. 7. 

The question is, why is it so hard to stop? 

Velocity certainly plays a big role for Ovechkin, who reached 101.3 mph winning the PPG NHL Hardest Shot event during the 2018 Geico NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 27. But would you believe Ovechkin's signature shot also has a natural curve to it?

According to Capitals goaltending coach Scott Murray, Ovechkin's one-timer has a draw that makes trying to save it similar to attempting to hit a curveball. Unlike a batter who is standing still, the goaltender is usually sliding on the cross-ice pass that precedes Ovechkin's shot.

"You are moving to your spot and you have to deal with a ball-hockey ball curving either down and in, low (to the) blocker (side), or starting off the plate and hitting the outside corner high," Murray said.

Video: Ovechkin on 600th career goal with the Capitals

Anaheim Ducks goalie Ryan Miller has seen it firsthand. 

"It is like facing a breaking ball," said Miller, who played most of his 32 games against the Capitals during 11 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. "Ovi scores with talent, strength and a unique release. Most of Ovi's shots are heavy and they have a strong spin off his uniquely curved blade. It is hard to read."

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist broke into the NHL in 2005-06, the same season as Ovechkin, and has seen a lot of that shot during 37 regular-season games against Washington.

"It's hard. There's so much power behind it," Lundqvist said. "A lot of guys score because it's accurate. A lot of guys score because it's fast. I think he has a combination of power, not always accurate, but so much power, and fast. A lot of goals go through the arms, through the legs, because goalies try to squeeze it, but it's too hard."

Even when you know it's coming, and from where.

"A lot of times you feel like, 'I got this,' but when he shoots, you get surprised and it's like, 'I guess I didn't get it,'" Lundqvist said. "With him, you need to be in position. If you're late, it's always a tough save. You're not done, but it's going to be a lot harder. Good positioning on him is key."

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo agreed.

Video: #NHLMilestones: Ovechkin tallies his 600th goal

"To me, other than velocity and precision from that spot, I don't see much," Luongo said. "I'm overly aggressive when I know he's going to shoot, so it's helped me."

Luongo is quick to credit Ovechkin for other shooting abilities. For all the focus on that power-play one-timer, there are 375 other goals to consider.

"He's the best at quick-releasing off the rush using the defenseman as a screen," Luongo said. "Makes it very difficult to stop if you don't pick it up or if you're deep in your net."

Miller also mentioned the ability to surprise goalies as a key to Ovechkin's success.

 

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"He gets a lot of power from unexpected plays," Miller said. "He can deliver a quick shot without using a perfect setup."

With 600 NHL goals, it's not surprising Ovechkin can score lots of different ways. But the one everyone knows is coming remains the most impressive.

"I don't think it's physically possible when he picks his spot to be able to save it," Hutton said.

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