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Hull knows Oates was perfect coach for Ovechkin

by Dan Rosen

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates checks his phone after games and occasionally sees a text from a familiar name.

"Hullie still texts me after games," Oates said, referring to former teammate Brett Hull. "He sees himself in Ovi [Alex Ovechkin]."

It's true, Hull told, he absolutely sees himself when he watches Ovechkin, Washington's captain and star forward. Hull also said he believes Oates was the only person who  had any chance of helping Ovechkin rediscover his scoring form because Oates understands a goal-scorer's mentality.

Oates helped Hull score 212 goals over parts of three seasons when they were teammates with the St. Louis Blues in the early 1990s. Oates also helped Cam Neely score 50 goals in 49 games with the Boston Bruins in 1993-94 and Peter Bondra get 52 with the Capitals in 1997-98.

"[Ovechkin's] will to win and things like that, that will make him do all the little things. But if he's not scoring, he's not happy. That's a goal-scorer," Hull said. "You may not see it outwardly, but inside we're not happy. You don't want to use the word depressed, but it is, and the rest of the game is tougher because of it.

"You've got to get players like Ovechkin motivated to score goals, and when they do, the rest of the game happens because they're so excited to just to get back down the other end of the ice or get back on the ice because they know they're going to get another chance to score. Goal-scorers have to be scoring goals because that's what makes them function."

Ovechkin scored more goals this season than anyone in the NHL: 32, including 20 in the past 19 games.

Hull said it's because of Oates and his ability to convince Ovechkin to play right wing while teaching him along the way.

"That's half the battle," Hull said. "You get so much more accomplished and you see so much more of the game on your right side. When you're playing your off side you always seem to be looking away from the game instead of at the game. That's not a small thing and it took him some time to get used to it.

"But Adam gave Ovi that will to score by working with him, talking with him about where to go, what to do and making the game fun for him again. There's no question he put the onus on Ovi to be the guy without putting the pressure on him to be the guy. Obviously he took it and ran with it because for the last three-quarters of the year he was the best player in the NHL, hands-down. Obviously Sid [Crosby] was hurt, but he [Ovechkin] is a top-three player in the NHL again."


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