Some thoughts as I wait for the big game on Sunday -- the New York Rangers at Montreal.
Alexander the Great --
It’s hard to say what’s more impressive about Alex Ovechkin
-- his skill or his toughness.
Ovechkin had his second four-goal game in less than five weeks in Washington’s 5-4 overtime win against Montreal at the Verizon Center on Thursday night. Fittingly, Ovechkin capped the victory when he went to the net and swatted Jeff Schultz
’s pass behind Cristobal Huet
, capping a five-point night.
"We scored five, and he was in on all five," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau
said. "So, how can you say enough about him? He's an amazing person."
A lesser player wouldn’t have been around long enough to be the hero. Ovechkin was knocked to the ice early in the game by Alex Kovalev
’s errant high stick, then broke his nose when he was rammed into the boards by defenseman Francois Bouillon.
"Today was a special day," Ovechkin said with a smile. "I broke my nose, have stitches (and) score four goals. Everything (went) to my face."
Ovechkin has 11 goals in nine games since agreeing on a 13-year contract extension three weeks ago. His 43 goals and 70 points are both tops in the League, and if the Caps can make the playoffs, he has to be the front-runner for the Hart Trophy.
“Alex's game is excellent, excellent,” linemate Viktor Kozlov
said. “Hitting people, passing, scoring. I don't know what else forwards could do."
We don’t either.
Wings on their mind --
Having polished off the beasts of the East on Thursday, the Boston Bruins
now turn their attention to the best of the West. The Bruins were barely off the ice after their 4-1 win at Ottawa before they were facing questions about Saturday’s opponent -- the Detroit Red Wings
''They're obviously a great team, leading the whole NHL in points, and they're a dominating team,'' said Thomas, whose shutout bid was ruined by Antoine Vermette
's power-play goal with 8:24 remaining. ''I watch them on TV and it seems like they always have the puck, so it's going to be a real challenge.''
It’s Detroit’s first visit to the TD Banknorth Garden since Jan. 10, 2004, a game the Bruins won 2-1 in overtime. Boston has won the last three meetings with its Original Six rival, and the Wings haven’t won in the Hub of Hockey since a 2-1 overtime win on Dec. 23, 2000.
''We're ready,'' center Marc Savard
said after the Bruins won their third in a row by beating the Senators. ''It's going to be a tough task.''
It’s always sunny in Philadelphia --
Well, almost always, if you’re the New York Rangers
The Rangers had lost six-straight road games and dropped to the bottom of the Atlantic Division. But that was before they rolled into Philadelphia on Thursday night and strolled out with a 4-0 victory, giving them 10 wins in their last 11 visits to the Wachovia Center.
''They seem to bring out the best in us and it's a hostile environment here,'' Rangers coach Tom Renney said. ''We wanted to make sure we took the crowd out of it and tried to play our game. We had that success tonight.''
No one had more success than Steve Valiquette
. The 30-year-old backup goalie stopped 20 shots for his first NHL shutout. But he was more excited by the win than the individual milestone.
''I'm pumped, but with a 4-0 win, we're more excited about that as a team than a shutout for me, that's for sure,'' he said.
Valiquette had the Rangers’ last road win, a 6-1 victory at Toronto on Dec. 29. Despite the shutout, he’ll be on the bench tonight while Henrik Lundqvist
plays at New Jersey.
Spirits up! --
So what does a coach say during a video review of a goal against his team that’s going to send an apparent victory into overtime? In the case of Carolina’s Peter Laviolette
, it was important to keep his team’s sprits up.
“He was all positive,” defenseman Tim Gleason
said after the Hurricanes’ 3-2 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs
. “He was yelling, ‘Let’s go, let’s not give up, let’s go for the points here,’ and we obviously got that job done for us.”
The video review upheld Mats Sundin
’s tying goal with 11.4 seconds left in regulation. The Hurricanes won it on Rod Brind’Amour’s power-play goal with 1:40 left in OT.
Brind’Amour was more concerned about the two points the ‘Canes got, rather than the one they gave the Leafs.
"We got a lucky break that we got a power play and their guy didn't clear the puck and it ends up in their net," the Carolina captain said. "I don't care how we get our two points."
Go East, young men --
So far, so good, for the Los Angeles Kings
, who are playing their first eight games after the All-Star break on the road. The Kings got a point in an overtime loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday, then skated away with two more by beating the New York Islanders
3-1 Thursday at the Nassau Coliseum.
''Three points for us is a lot,'' said defenseman Rob Blake
, who scored the tie-breaking goal midway through the first period. ''We understood the challenge at hand here coming on this type of a trip after the break. We had a good effort in Philly, and tonight we got the job done.''
At 21-29-3, the Kings are still 12 points out of a playoff berth, so they’re looking for improvement rather than trying to make a run at a post-season berth.
''You can't really look at the big picture,'' goalie Jason LaBarbera
said. ''It's probably good for us to get out here and see something different and get away from the stuff we've seen a lot of this year.
Brad’s big night --
It’s been a tough season for Tampa Bay’s Brad Richards
, whose League-worst minus-26 rating overshadows his 16 goals and 29 assists. That’s why the Lightning were excited by Richards’ three-point night in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 victory against the Vancouver Canucks
''He was great,'' defenseman Shane O'Brien
said. ''It's no secret he's got tons of talent, and when he competes like that, he's one of the best in the League.''
Richards was more pleased by the way the Lightning won the game -- answering a physical challenge from the Canucks and overcoming a pair of one-goal deficits.
“We were ready to play,” he said. “We got down a couple of times, but we kept coming back.
''I think they really wanted to get under our skin. We had to answer. I think we not only answered physically, but we answered by coming back in the game twice and getting a two-goal lead.''
We’re No. 8 --
For a team that lost a lot of talent during the summer, the Nashville Predators
are doing pretty well. Thursday’s 4-2 victory against Columbus moved the Preds into eighth place in the Western Conference playoff scramble.
Not that coach Barry Trotz
has any intention of letting his players enjoy it.
“We won’t dwell on it since we have a big game coming up this weekend – we need to focus on that,” he said of moving back into the last playoff spot. “We can enjoy this win tonight for about an hour and then need to refocus our thoughts to Phoenix.”
John Kreiser can be e-mailed at email@example.com.