After the slowest start of his NHL career, Alex Ovechkin is looking like his old self.
Alex Ovechkin struggled mightily to begin this season, but the past week suggests "The Great Eight" may once again be starting to live up to that moniker. (Photo: Getty Images)
It took Ovechkin five games this season to score his first goal, and he reached the halfway point of the season having scored only nine times. Since then, however, he's been finding the net the way he did in his first five NHL seasons, when he terrorized goaltenders and helped the Washington Capitals move into the NHL's elite.
Ovechkin scored in each of Washington's four games last week; in all, he scored five times and added three assists for eight points -- and that doesn't count a shootout goal in Sunday's win at New York. He's had goals in five straight games, and his 16 goals in 32 games would make him a 40-goal scorer in a normal 82-game season -- a level he hasn't reached since 2009-10.
Five up -- Five other players who had a good week:
Cory Schneider -- With Vancouver's lineup riddled by injuries, the Canucks needed Schneider to step up last week -- and he did just that. Schneider won four starts in a six-day stretch and allowed just five goals on 116 shots to power the Canucks back into first place in the Northwest Division.
Nazem Kadri -- Kadri's improvement is the biggest reason the Maple Leafs have a good chance to end a playoff drought that dates to 2004. He had back-to-back three-point games last week before scoring the first goal on Saturday night as the Leafs ended a two-year losing streak to Boston.
Braden Holtby -- Ovechkin's play isn't the only reason the Capitals are back in the playoff hunt. Holtby allowed only five goals in four games last week while going 3-1-0 with two wins in Winnipeg and a shootout victory against the Rangers in New York.
Niklas Backstrom --
Goalie - MIN
GAA: 2.23 | SVP: 0.921
Backstrom and the Minnesota Wild
had a terrific week. The Wild went 3-0-0, with Backstrom in goal for all three games. He capped his perfect week with a 2-0 victory against San Jose on Saturday, extending his team's winning streak and his own to five games.
Sergei Gonchar -- Ottawa's 38-year-old defenseman has stepped up his game after Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson went down for the season with an injury. Gonchar has assists in each of the Senators' last 10 games, put up five points in three games for the Senators last week -- and was plus-5 with the game-winning goal on Tuesday.
Five down -- Five players who didn't:
David Jones -- Colorado gave Jones a four-year contract last summer after he scored 27 and 20 goals in the previous two seasons. So far, the deal hasn't been a good one for the Avalanche. Jones has gone 10 games without a point and was scratched twice last week.
Jussi Jokinen -- The younger of the NHL's two Jokinens has provided consistent secondary scoring for Carolina -- until this season. He's gone without a point in his last six games and has just five goals and 10 points with the season nearing the two-thirds mark.
Nik Antropov -- The Winnipeg Jets ended a stretch of five games in eight days by beating Tampa Bay on Sunday to end a four-game slide. One reason they struggled was a lack of production from Antropov, who didn't have a point in any of the five games.
Sergei Kostitsyn --
Left Wing - NSH
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 11
SOG: 24 | +/-: 8
The Nashville Predators
opted to re-sign Kostitsyn last summer to give their offense a boost. He's not providing one. Kostitsyn has gone five games without a point and hasn't scored a goal in more than a month.
Jason Chimera -- The big forward scored a career-high 20 goals for Washington in 2011-12. His scoring touch hasn't shown up so far this season -- he has just one goal, went without a point in four games last week and has been in the penalty box for each of the last three power-play goals allowed by the Capitals.
The week ahead -- New York-area fans will have to settle for watching their hockey on television for the next seven days -- the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils all spend the week on the road. So do the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, who play four away games in a six-day stretch. It's a good week for Philadelphia fans -- the Flyers are the only one of the 12 teams facing a four-game week who will play all four games at home.
Games to watch:
Los Angeles at Chicago (March 25; NBCSN/TSN2) -- After being shut out in the last two games of a homestand, the defending Stanley Cup champions begin a road trip with a visit to the team that's on top of the overall standings.
New York Rangers at Philadelphia (March 26; NBCSN/TSN) -- The Rangers have dominated the Flyers during the past couple of seasons, and both teams desperately need a win to help their playoff hopes.
Montreal at Boston (March 27; NBCSN/TSN/RDS) -- Rivalry Night lives up to its name as the Bruins host Montreal needing a win if they hope to overtake the Canadiens for first place in the Northeast Division.
Los Angeles at St. Louis (March 28; NHLN-US) -- The Kings look for a sweep of the season series against the Blues, a team they've beaten in five of their past six meetings.
Anaheim at Chicago (March 29; NHLN-US) -- The two best teams in the West meet for the third and final time, with the Blackhawks still smarting from a 4-2 loss at Anaheim last week.
Philadelphia at Boston and New York Rangers at Montreal (March 30; NHLN-US) -- U.S. viewers will get a day-night doubleheader, with the Flyers visiting Boston in the afternoon and the Rangers trying to avoid a season sweep by the Canadiens in the night game; that game is also on CBC and RDS.
Chicago at Detroit (March 31; NBC/NHLN-Canada) -- There don't figure to be many Easter greetings exchanged at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings try to find a way to slow down the Blackhawks.