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Ovechkin on pace for 442-shot season

by John Kreiser

Alex Ovechkin's 56 goals this season make him the front runner for the Rocket Richard trophy. Checkout Alex Ovechkin highlights
Coaches always tell kids, "You can't score if you don't shoot." Alex Ovechkin must have taken those words to heart.

Ovechkin is the runaway leader in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy -- his 56 goals are eight more than runner-up Ilya Kovalchuk. But Ovechkin also is by far the busiest shooter in the NHL.

Entering play this weekend, Ovechkin had a League-high 383 shots on goal, 74 more than runner-up Olli Jokinen of Florida, who had played one more game. Barring some unusual occurrence, it will be the third time in his three NHL seasons Ovechkin has led the NHL in shots on goal. He had 425 while scoring 52 times as a rookie in 2005-06, 57 more than runner-up Jaromir Jagr of the Rangers, and 392 during his 46-goal season in 2006-07, 41 more than Jokinen.

At his present pace, Ovechkin would end up with 442 shots, which would put him second on the all-time single-season list, behind Phil Esposito, who had 505 in his then-record 76-goal season in 1970-71. Paul Kariya's 429 with Anaheim in 1998-99 currently is second on the all-time list; Ovechkin's 2005-06 total is fourth, one behind Esposito's 426 in 1971-72.

Ovechkin has been upping his shooting pace. He's had 21 shots on goal in his last two games: 10 against Pittsburgh Sunday and 11 (with two goals) in Washington's 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames Wednesday. They were the fifth and sixth times this season Ovechkin reached double figures in shots; only Jokinen and Rick Nash of Columbus have as many as two.

Ironically, Ovechkin's two four-goal performances have come in games in which he didn't have a ton of shots. He scored four times on five shots at Ottawa Dec. 29 and had four goals on six shots against Montreal Jan. 31.

Ovechkin has had at least one shot on goal in every game this season but one, a 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders Oct. 8. The Isles also are one of only two teams to limit him to one shot on goal in a game: They did it on Feb. 20, matching New Jersey's accomplishment Dec. 10. But remember, that's shots on goal, not shots at goal. For example: While Ovechkin had just one shot on goal in the game against the Isles last month, he took four that were blocked and fired six that missed the net, including three that hit posts.

Ready, aim, fire -- It's a good guess Philadelphia goaltenders Antero Niittymaki and Martin Biron are glad the Flyers don't go back to Toronto this season. The two biggest single-game shots-on-goal totals this season belong to the Leafs, and both came against the Flyers at Air Canada Centre. Niittymaki faced 56 shots in a 3-2 win Jan. 5, and Biron saw 55 pucks in Tuesday night's 4-3 overtime loss.

That also marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Leafs had 40 or more shots, the longest streak in the NHL this season. The Leafs also are the only team in the League to reach the 50-shot mark in as many as three games. But the Leafs also are proof that shooting more doesn't mean winning more: Toronto split the four games during its 40-shot streak and has lost twice in the three games in which it 50 had or more.

The Leafs have reached or exceeded 40 shots in a game 11 times this season, second to Detroit's 14. But the Wings have fared better: They are 8-3-3; Toronto is 5-4-2.

Solving Marty -- If nothing else, the Montreal Canadiens have finally learned how to beat Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

Brodeur, a Montreal native, has dominated the Canadiens throughout his career -- until this season. The Canadiens ended a nine-game losing streak to Brodeur and the Devils with a 4-3 comeback win in New Jersey Jan. 24, then won 2-1 at the Bell Centre March 1 and 4-0 March 11. It's the first time since 1988-89 the Canadiens have beaten the Devils three times in a season, and their best season ever against Brodeur.

Canadiens' Maxim Lapierre scores against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
Tuesday's game marked the 41st consecutive time Brodeur started against the Canadiens, but only the second time in 27 starts he allowed more than three goals in his hometown. The last time that happened was Jan. 28, 1995, when Montreal won, 5-1, at the Forum.

Despite the three losses this season, Brodeur has a 34-15-5 career mark against the Canadiens. He has more wins against Montreal than any non-division opponent.

Montreal goaltender Carey Price stopped 38 shots while earning his second career shutout in the 4-0 win over the Devils. It's the most saves in a shutout by a Montreal rookie since Ken Dryden also stopped 38 in a 3-0 victory over Detroit at the Forum on Oct. 30, 1971.

Road warriors -- One big reason for the New York Rangers' hot streak has been their sudden ability to win on the road. New York's 3-2 shootout win in Buffalo Monday night marked the 10th straight road game in which they've gotten at last one point -- they've won eight and lost one each in overtime and a shootout since a 3-1 defeat at Carolina Jan. 29 that left them 7-11-4 on the road. It's their best streak away from Madison Square Garden since they went 9-0-1 from Dec. 16, 1972 to Feb. 10, 1973. The Rangers can tie the longest road unbeaten streak in team history -- 6-0-5 in 1939-40 -- with a victory at Florida Friday night.
Firing blanks -- There have been four games this season that have gone to a shootout with no goals scored in regulation and overtime -- the most in any of the three seasons since the shootout was adopted in 2005. Two of the four have been between the Rangers and Boston Bruins, who went scoreless for the second time this season when they played last Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers and Bruins are the first 0-0 repeaters since the advent of the shootout.

There were no shootouts the last time two teams played a pair of goal-less games in the same season. But there were Bruins: Boston and Detroit tied 0-0 on Oct. 22, 1955 at the Boston Garden and again in their next meeting, Nov. 13, 1955, at the Olympia. The Bruins also went scoreless in their third meeting with the Wings on Dec. 3, a 5-0 loss -- it wasn't until their fourth game against Detroit, a 2-2 tie on Dec. 8, that they finally scored.

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