You can call Alex Ovechkin
a lot of things, but “homer” isn’t one of them.
It’s no secret Ovechkin is having a remarkable season — he’s already matched last season’s total of 46 goals and is on pace to score 68 times, the most goals by any player since Mario Lemieux had 69 in 1995-96. But while Ovechkin is tied for first with Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson and Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg for most goals scored at home with 21, he’s been even more dangerous on the road. He leads all NHL players with 25 goals away from home, six more than Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk.
That’s nothing new. Of Ovechkin’s 46 goals last season, a League-high 26 were scored away from home (he tied Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne for the NHL lead), and he had 28 of his 52 goals away from the Verizon Center as a rookie in 2005-06.
Ovechkin is dangerous any time he’s on the ice. He’s tops in the NHL at even strength with 30 goals (five more than Kovalchuk), and on the power play with 16 (two more than Montreal’s Alex Kovalev and Philadelphia’s Mike Knuble). He also leads in game-winners with eight (one ahead of New Jersey’s Patrik Elias and Dallas’ Niklas Hagman), is in a six-way tie for the top spot in overtime game-winners with two, and is the only player in the League to score more than three goals in a game twice.
About the only time Ovechkin doesn’t score is when the Capitals are killing penalties; he doesn’t have a shorthanded goal -- yet.
Historic comeback -- How unusual was the New York Rangers’ comeback last Sunday, in which they spotted the Canadiens a 3-0 lead at Montreal before rallying for a 5-3 victory? It marked the first time since Feb. 22, 1972, that the Rangers had come back from a three-goal deficit to win in Montreal. On that night, the Rangers stunned the Canadiens with seven unanswered goals to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 7-3 victory at the Forum.
This season’s team is hoping that comeback is a good omen: That 1971-72 team made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 22 years.
Never give up -- The Rangers’ comeback from a three-goal deficit wasn’t unique this season, but it was rare. It was the eighth team this season a team won a game after trailing by three or more goals; two nights later, the Calgary Flames made it nine by rallying from a 3-0 third-period deficit to beat Phoenix, 4-3 in a shootout.
That list has been helped by the presence of overtime and the shootout — just three of the teams that made up three-goal deficits won, as the Rangers did, in regulation.
Western woes -- The Rangers could use some of the aforementioned resilience in their games against Western Conference teams. Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to Anaheim dropped the Rangers to 0-7-2 against the West this season, including 0-4-0 at Madison Square Garden, all against Pacific Division teams. They’ll need to beat the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 17 to avoid becoming the first team to be swept at home by a division from another conference under the current scheduling format. The 2005-06 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only other team to lose four of their five home games -- perhaps not coincidentally, the Leafs also were playing the Pacific Division.
Historic loss -- Toronto’s 8-0 loss Tuesday to Florida at the Air Canada Centre also made history. It was the worst home loss for the Maple Leafs since Oct. 29, 2005, when they were routed 8-0 by Ottawa. Before that, Toronto hadn’t lost a home game by that many goals since a 10-2 defeat at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets on March 18, 1988.
It was a historic night for the Panthers, too. They enjoyed the franchise’s largest margin of victory, the biggest shutout victory in their history, and matched the team record for most goals scored in a road game.
Shootout history -- New Jersey and Buffalo made history by going to a shootout Wednesday. They became the third set of teams to play four shootouts in a season; but the first to have every one of their games decided by the penalty-shot competition. Last season, Minnesota and Calgary and Toronto and Montreal each went to a shootout four times in their eight meetings.
Buffalo avoided being the first team to lose four shootouts to the same team in the same season by winning Wednesday night, a 3-2 victory. The Sabres scored on both their attempts against Martin Brodeur, after going 1-for-8 against him in the first three shootouts. It was the first time Brodeur and the Devils had lost a shootout in the minimum three shots since Dec. 19, 2006, when Atlanta did it, winning the game 4-3.
A question of imbalance -- Marek Svatos of the Colorado Avalanche could be on his way to a historic scoring line.
Svatos entered the weekend with 22 goals but only five assists; no other player with 20 or more goals this season has less than 11 assists. Since expansion, the most goals by a player with less than 10 assists is 34 by Peter Bondra of the Washington Capitals, who had 34 goals and just nine assists in 1994-95. Three other players -- Minnesota’s Bill Collins (29 goals, nine assists in 1969-70), Pittsburgh’s Wayne Bianchin (25 goals, six assists in 1976-77) and Montreal’s Brian Savage (25 goals, eight assists in 1995-96) -- also had more than 25 goals and fewer than 10 assists.
Scoring lines like these were more common long ago: Bill Cook of the Rangers led the NHL in scoring in 1926-27 (New York’s first season in the League) with 37 points -- 33 goals and four assists.