Dub Ovechkin 'Mr. April' after record-setting month
Reggie Jackson is baseball's Mr. October. Alex Ovechkin is making a case to be this season's Mr. April.
After a slow start mirroring that of his team, Ovechkin has carried the Washington Capitals to their fifth Southeast Division title in six seasons with the kind of offensive burst he hadn't shown for a couple of seasons.
The Capitals went 14-2-1 in a 17-game stretch that carried them from 14th in the Eastern Conference to the Southeast Division title and the No. 3 seed when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next week. Much of the credit belongs to Ovechkin, whose 14 goals this month are the most ever scored in April -- the 14th came in Thursday night's 2-1 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators, two nights after Ovi scored the clincher in a 5-3 victory against the Winnipeg Jets that wrapped up the division.
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 32 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 54
SOG: 217 | +/-: 2
During the Capitals' 17-game surge, Ovechkin scored 19 goals and added 10 assists for 29 points, the most of any player in the League during that stretch.
Ovechkin's 14-goal month was his first since October 2009, when he scored 14 times in 13 games. He broke the April record of 12 goals held by Alexei Zhamnov of the Winnipeg Jets in 1995 (also a lockout-extended season) and Mario Lemieux, who scored 12 times in seven April games in 1993.
Just as Ovechkin broke the record for most goals in April, Elliott now owns the record for most victories. He won his 10th game in 12 decisions this month by leading the Blues to a 4-1 victory against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
What's more remarkable is that Elliott's record-setting month came after he went 3-6-1 in his 10 decisions prior to April and was sent to the minors for a two-game conditioning stint. Elliott allowed 33 goals in 11 appearances before April; he has surrendered just 15 on 282 shots in his 12 decisions this month.
Road warrior -- Martin Brodeur continues to put the record for most regular-season victories by a goaltender further out of reach.
Brodeur added one more line in the record book to his lengthy collection last week when he led the New Jersey Devils to a 3-0 road victory against the Philadelphia Flyers to become the first NHL goaltender to win 300 games away from home (he has 369 at home; 266 at the Meadowlands and 103 at Prudential Center). For some perspective: Ed Belfour (206) is second in road wins and Patrick Roy (203) is third; Evgeni Nabokov of the New York Islanders is second among active goaltenders with 152.
The 3-0 victory was also Brodeur's 121st career shutout and his 11th against the Flyers; he's now shut them out more than any other opponent.
Goalie - NYI
GAA: 2.54 | SVP: 0.909
Another road warrior -- Nabokov is making some history of his own -- and not only because he's led the Islanders to their first playoff berth in six years.
Nabokov is just 9-8-3 in his 20 decisions at the Nassau Coliseum, but he leads all goaltenders with 14 victories on the road -- Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks is next with 11. Though there are only 24 road games in this shortened season, Nabokov is 14-3-3 away from home, matching the franchise record for road wins in a season set by Billy Smith, who went 14-4-4 in 1976-77. Nabokov has gotten some help from rule changes in the interim; five of his 14 wins have come after regulation, an option that wasn't available to Smith 36 years ago.
Superb at any strength -- Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators leads all NHL goaltenders who've played at least half of their team's games with a superb .942 save percentage. Amazingly, he's done it with a balanced ledger.
Anderson enters the final weekend of the season tops among all goaltenders in save percentage at even strength at .944 (475 saves on 503 shots). But he's also No. 1 in save percentage on the power play, allowing just 10 goals on 125 shots (.925). He's also stopped all 16 shots he's faced while the Senators have been on the power play.
Goalie - PIT
GAA: 2.45 | SVP: 0.919
Postseason novice -- Tomas Vokoun has been a solid NHL goaltender for 15 seasons, so it's not a surprise he has reached the 300-win mark. The Pittsburgh Penguins' 3-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators this week made him the 28th member of the 300-win club.
But Vokoun is by himself when it comes to the difference between regular-season victories and playoff success. He has played in only 11 postseason games and won just three -- all for the Nashville Predators -- and hasn't played in a playoff game since 2007. Of the 27 other goaltenders who've won 300 or more games, every other one has more playoff wins than Vokoun has appearances; only Sean Burke, a 324-game winner during the regular season, has less than 20. Burke won 12 of his 35 playoff decisions but was just 3-15 after his first postseason experience -- he was 9-8 in 1988 when he led the New Jersey Devils within one victory of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.