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Southeast: Ovechkin's got a goal

by Robert Picarello / NHL.com

2005-06 Calder Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin is hoping to reach the 50-goal plateau after falling short last season.
When you look at Alex Ovechkin's NHL resume, you realize he's all about goals.

In just two short seasons with the Washington Capitals, the 22-year-old Ovechkin has torched goalies 98 times, while assisting on another 100 goals. In his first NHL season, Ovechkin scored 52 goals and 54 assists in 81 games, becoming just the second rookie in NHL history to reach 50 goals and 100 points.

Also in his rookie season, Ovechkin broke Capitals' rookie records for goals (52), assists (54), points (106), power-play goals (21) and shots (425), while breaking the NHL rookie record for shots on goal (425), which was the fourth-highest single-season total in league history. As if that wasn't enough, Ovechkin also led all NHL 2005-06 rookies in goals, points, power-play goals, shorthanded goals (3, tied), power-play assists (31, tied), power-play points (52) and shots. Not surprisingly, he won the Calder Trophy as the League’s top rookie.

Last season was no different. There were no nights off or sophomore jinx for Ovechkin. In 82 games, he scored 46 goals and 46 assists while posting the most in-division goals (25) in the entire NHL. Ovechkin was tied for the League lead in road goals with 26 and finished tied for second in even-strength goals with 30, which was one off leader Vincent Lecavalier's mark. Ovechkin also scored 19.7 percent of Washington's goals during the 2006-07 season, while netting the first goal of a game for the Caps 14 times and scoring the game's first goal six times. Ovechkin was one of only nine players in the NHL to lead his team in both goals and assists last season, and his eight game-winners in '06-07 were the most by a Capital since the 2002-03 season.

On paper it seems like there's nothing this kid can't do, but if you ask him to talk about his on-ice achievements, he'll be the first to point out the one thing he hasn't done yet in his short time with the Capitals -- lead his team to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite all his offensive theatrics over the last two seasons, Ovechkin has seen the Capitals twice finish last in the Southeast division, 22 points shy of a playoff berth each time. He no longer wants to be a part of that. As one would expect, Ovechkin has goals.

"My goal is to make the playoffs and I have to score goals and everybody has to score goals (in order to do that). So my goal is to score goals and try to win games."

This season, the Capitals should win more games than the 28 posted last season. The Caps brought in veterans like Michael Nylander (26-57-83), Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti, plus highly regarded prospect Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps’ first-round selection (fourth overall) from the 2006 draft. The hope is they will take some of the offensive burden off Ovechkin's shoulders, while also putting Washington in position to challenge for one of the playoff spots in the East.

Is it possible? Ovechkin thinks so.

"Why not?” he asks. “You never know. We have to win all the games and we have to win and try in every game. And if you win the games, you make the playoffs. If you have a great team and you lose, you don't go to the playoffs."

The kid's got a point. He's also got a goal – or goals – in mind for the 2007-08 season.

Holik’s in charge -- In Atlanta, there's a new sheriff in town and his name is Bobby Holik. With Scott Mellanby now retired, Holik has been appointed Thrashers’ captain.

"Over his entire career, especially during his two seasons with the Thrashers, Bobby has proven that he is a leader both on and off the ice," GM Don Waddell said. "He has the experience of 16 NHL seasons and two Stanley Cups to help guide our team and build upon the success of last season."

Holik is a 16-year NHL veteran and proud owner of two Stanley Cups rings from his time spent with the New Jersey Devils. The Czech native has served as a Thrashers alternate captain since signing with the team as a free agent in the summer of 2005. He has appeared in 1,170 NHL games with Hartford, New Jersey, the Rangers and the Thrashers, scoring 307 goals, 397 assists and 1,267 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound center has appeared in 146 games over two seasons as a Thrasher, scoring 26 goals and 36 assists. In 138 career playoff games, Holik has scored 20 goals and 38 assists, including one assist in four games in Atlanta's first playoff appearance last season.

16-year veteran center Bobby Holik has been named Atlanta's new captain.
The Thrashers also announced their plan to have Niclas Havelid, Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Kozlov serve as alternate captains on a rotating basis throughout the season. Previously, three of the four players have worn the "A" for the Thrashers – Havelid (2006-07), Hossa (2006-07) and Kozlov (2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06 and 2006-07) – with Kovalchuk entering his first season as an alternate captain.

Before being handed the "C", Holik was an alternate for the Thrashers during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. The five Atlanta leaders have a combined 3,618 regular-season games under their belts, 52 seasons of NHL experience, 340 playoff games and four Stanley Cup championships.

"Our group of leaders know what it takes to be successful in this League," coach Bob Hartley said. "They are all high-character individuals who lead by example and are committed to our goals as a team."

Southeast quotes -- "You go down 4-on-3 for two minutes in overtime, it certainly reduces the chance of coming back."

-- Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said in regards to Montreal's game-winning power play goal Wednesday night in overtime.

"I really don't know how to answer that question. I just do my best. I try to be as good a model as I can be for the kids. Hopefully I think I'm doing a pretty nice job. I think our organization is great like that, too. I think they're really into the community. I think that's why the hockey is growing like that. Guys really respect the players."

-- Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier on being one of Tampa Bay's most popular athletes.

The week ahead -- On Friday, Oct. 5, the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes and the Capitals are in Atlanta to take on the Thrashers. Saturday, Oct. 6, the New York Jersey Devils are in Florida to play the Panthers, the Hurricanes are in Washington to take on the Capitals and the Thrashers are in Tampa Bay visiting the Lightning.

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