Second Look: Crosby and Ovechkin play on same line

This is what makes the All-Star Game such a spectacle. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the two greatest players of the generation of which they played, playing together on the same line, setting each other up for goals.

Who wouldn’t want to watch this?

The two stars, who have been bitter rivals since coming into the league in 2005 and bitter division rivals since the NHL realigned in 2013, finished with a goal and assist apiece en route to the Metro winning the four-team three-on-three tournament that was the game. Both picked up their points in the first game, a 10-6 win over the Atlantic. Crosby got the first goal on an assist from Ovechkin before Crosby returned the favor, setting up Ovechkin for a goal with a second to play.

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Alex Ovechkin first of a few stars to reach 1,000 points in coming future

Alex Ovechkin scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday night in the first period of the Washington Captials 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on a goal that coincided with the 545th tally of his career, which put him past hockey legend Maurice Richard for sole possession of 29th place on the all-time list.

He became the 84th player in NHL history to record 1,000 points in the league.

The milestone, of course is another mark in the amazing career of Ovechkin, who will go down as one of the great goal scorers to ever play the game. He reached 1,000 points in 880 games, one of just 37 players to reach four figures with one team.

Going into the game, Ovechkin was one of five NHLers within 45 points of the milestone. The Russian won the race, with Henrik Sedin the closest to him, at 996. He also beat out Sidney Crosby, who along with Ovechkin has been the face of the league since the two came into the league following the 2004-05 lockout. Crosby stands 17 shy, at 983.

Daniel Sedin (965) and Shane Doan (956) are the others within striking distance. Sedin, whose twin brother is four points shy, might not reach it until next season. Doan, however, might not reach the mark. Doan has just 11 points in 40 games this season, and there’s speculation he might retire at the conclusion of the season.

Ovechkin is the only player to score 1,000 points in a Washington uniform. Few will argue his place as the most important player in franchise history, not to mention the best, as well. He’s one of six active players with 1,000 career points, joining former Capital Jaromir Jagr (remember that?), who is second all-time at 1,893, Joe Thornton (1,367), Jarome Iginla (1,284), Marian Hossa (1,114), and Patrick Marleau (1,055).

As for who follows this group of five (if you include Doan) on the horizon? Well, there’s not much. Henrik Zetterberg (864) is next on the list after Doan, but is unlikely to reach 1,000, at 36 years old and heading into the twilight of his career. Jason Spezza (837), Eric Staal (816), and Evgeni Malkin (804) are the next ones on the list, but all three will need at least a couple of seasons to get to the milestone.

Alex Ovechkin can match Maurice Richard on goal scoring list tonight

With the Washington Capitals visiting the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night, Alex Ovechkin will be visiting the city in which Maurice Richard starred back in the middle of the 20th century, building a resume of work that still makes him among the greatest goal scorers ever.

So why is that relevant?

Well, Ovechkin currently stands at 30th place on the all-time goal scoring list with 543 tallies. Richard, who played from 1943-60 and retired as the all-time leader in goals, sits in 29th at 544. The 31-year-old sniper could tie the legendary Canadien with a goal on Monday night, in the same city – albeit a different barn – that Richard played in.

Above all, this would another feather in the cap of the Russian winger, who in his early 30s with plenty of hockey left in him yet is already widely considered one of the greatest goal scorers ever. Richard, while just 29th on the all-time list, is on the short-list of those whom a case can be made for being the best goal-scorer ever. A place where Ovechkin can be – if he’s not already there.

Since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005, there have been 20 seasons of 50-plus goals. He accounts for seven of them, and is the only player to score 50 times in a season since 2012, something he’s done three times. Only Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk have multiple 50-goal seasons over that span, the last of which came in 2007-08, when Ovi’s countryman scored 52 goals for the Atlanta Thrashers.

There will be plenty of milestones to come for Ovechkin, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances. He’ll likely reach 600 career goals next season and is a virtual lock for 700, a mark reached just seven times in NHL history.

But matching the Rocket will be the latest bar cleared in Ovechkin’s legacy.

Metro Division: Facts, Figures, Predictions

*The Flyers are one of just seven teams to not have a Calder Trophy winner.

*The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Only Edmonton, who lost to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final, its most recent postseason appearance, has a longer drought.

*The Capitals are one of just four franchises that were in business prior to the 1979 WHA merger that have no Stanley Cup to its name. The others: Buffalo, St. Louis, Vancouver.

*Philadelphia has the second-highest all-time point percentage (.577) trailing only Montreal (.589). Columbus is the lowest, at .467. The Flyers have the second-most playoff appearances (38) among non-Original Six franchises. The Blues take the cake in that category, with 40.

*The Islanders recorded back-to-back 100-point campaigns the last two seasons, the first time that’s happened since 1980-81, 1981-82; the meat of the Al Arbour era in which the halls (or the LIE) were decked with Stanley Cups.

*John Tavares sits in just 12th place on the Isles all-time scoring list at 471 points, but he can do some serious damage over the next couple seasons. If he matches the 156-point output over the last two seasons (which he should do easily), Tavares will move into the top five on the Islanders scoring list. He’s within 200 of fourth place, a perch held by Clark Gilles, who put up 663 from 1975-86.

*Top three active players in points per game: Sidney Crosby (1.327), Evgeni Malkin (1.18), and Alex Ovechkin (1.151). Nicklas Backstrom is seventh, scoring at a rate of 0.985 in 652 career games going back to 2007.

*Crosby ranks fifth on the all-time list; behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Orr.

*Assists per game: Crosby (0.849), Backstrom (0.732), and Malkin (0.722).

*At an average age of 27.2, the Capitals were tied with the 2006-07 Sabres for the third-youngest team to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

*Taylor Hall has posted more than 65 points just once (80, 2014), has played more than 65 games just twice. Thirty goals remains on the bucket list. Peter Chiarelli didn’t trade Jari Kurri.

*Ovechkin’s 525 goals since 2005-06 lead the NHL. But you knew that. The next closest? That would be Jarome Iginla, with 361. 361!!

*Here’s something you didn’t expect: Of the ten 52-goal seasons assembled in that time, Ovechkin accounts for just four. Remember that time Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals? Yeah didn’t think so.

Predictions

1- Washington: Best team in the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom.

2- Pittsburgh: No team has repeated since the 1998 Red Wings. Hearing the Penguins really, really want to be that first team to defend a title since then.

3- Rangers: Jeff Gorton acquires Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade deadline deal.

4- Philadelphia: Warning to college campuses – NHL executives are going to begin raiding your hockey programs.

5- Islanders: Lots of questions marks on the Island.

6- Carolina: Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes make the playoffs.

7- Columbus: Ditto the Jackets. Zach Werenski wins the Calder Trophy.

8- New Jersey: Not a bad team, just victims of a killer division.

World Cup of Hockey Post-Mortem: Some Facts and Figures

Some facts and figures in the wake of the Boston Bruins winning the World Cup of Hockey..

*But seriously, though. Only two players had more than three goals in this tournament: Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with five and four, respectively. Six of the the nine goals came in the semifinals and final.

*All three goals in Canada’s 2-1 clincher against Europe were scored by Bruins. Zdeno Chara gave Europe the 1-0 lead in the first period before his NHL teammates delivered the late-game heroics; first Bergeron’s redirection to tie the score, then Marchand’s shorthanded goal to go ahead with 44 seconds to play.

*Steven Stamkos was the lone Canadian not named Bergeron or Marchand to score in the final. Stamkos joins John Tavares and Corey Perry – both of whom scored in the 5-3 semifinal triumph over Russia – as the lone Canadians outside the superstar top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Sidney Crosby to tally a goal in the semifinal or final.

*It seemed like the story of the World Cup were the two squads that were multiple countries co-opped together in Team Europe and Team North America. Team North America, of course, was comprised of the best under-23 players from Canada and the U.S., an exciting, fast, skilled team considered the represent the future of the game. Europe was an old, gritty group that had a little bit of everything but didn’t look like the full package that managed to make an unexpected run to the final.

Interestingly enough, it looks like it might be the last you see of such teams. You can definitely mark that down as a guarantee with North America, the team being put together much at the detriment to the American squad; there were quite a few players on that roster that would’ve made a difference playing on John Tortorella’s team. So we’ll see what that means for Europe.

*As for filling out those seventh and eighth teams, here’s an idea for at least one of the two spots that need to be filled: a Canadian ‘B’ team. A team that features the best of those left off the Canadian roster. The talk is that Canada could put together a second team and beat most, if not all, other countries. Well, let’s see it.

*Seventy-nine goals were scored in the tournament. Twenty of those were scored by players who played for either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s more than a quarter. Of course, it’s important to point out that give-or-take a quarter of the players in this tournament play for the Lightning. Or at least it seemed that way.

*Here’s the breakdown of scoring by NHL club:

Boston- 11; Tampa Bay- 9; Washington-6; Chicago, Colorado, Toronto- 5; Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis- 4; Edmonton, San Jose, N.Y. Rangers- 3; Calgary, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Arizona- 2; N.Y. Islanders, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Nashville, Buffalo, Vancouver, Florida- 1.

*Canada’s title makes it six of eight for the Red Leafs between the three installments of the World Cup of Hockey going back to 1996 and the Canada Cup, of which there were five of between 1976 and 1991. Something about that country when it comes to hockey.

Bruins Signing of Brad Marchand a Slam Dunk

The World Cup of Hockey has been a coming out party of sorts for Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand, whose broken through the doors of the lodge of elite left wingers in the world through his performance for Team Canada. He’s been a key cog for the Red Leafs top line that’s rounded out with world-class forwards Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby.

For those who haven’t seen enough of Marchand or have been wary of his place among his peers, they’ve been put on notice of just how great a player Marchand is through his performance. For those who have helped make his case in recent years, it’s proof positive that the 28-year-old has a rightful place among the elite at his position, which includes Alex Ovechkin, Jamie Benn, Johnny Gaudreau, Max Pacioretty, Alex Steen, Filip Forsberg, and Brandon Saad, among a few others.

It’s more likely than not that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in the latter group when it came to opinions on Marchand. Regardless of what his opinions were of the Bruin, he made his current take on the player pretty clear on Monday morning when he signed Marchand to a contract extension at the maximum term of eight years. The total value of the deal is $49 million, his $6.125 million cap hit currently set to be the sixth-highest among left wingers when it takes effect at the start of the 2017-18 season according to spotrac.com.

Whether or not Marchand’s 37-goal campaign in 2015-16 was an anomaly is up for debate, and we’ll get further answers on that in the coming months. But there’s no doubt he’s worth the paycheck he’ll start accruing in 12 months.

Since coming into the league regularly in 2010-11, Marchand has averaged 0.353 goals per game. That translates to 28.95 goals for every 82 games played. That number ranks fifth among all left wingers who have logged 400 games over that span behind Ovechkin (0.58), Rich Nash (0.41), Benn (.40), and Patrick Sharp (0.36). Over the past two seasons, only Ovechkin and Benn have a higher output in the category.

So let’s set the standard for Marchand at 29 goals per season, which is a safe assessment of what to expect. Not the 37 he scored last season, but not the 18 he was on pace for midway through the 2013-14 season, when he slumped to 10 goals in his first 45 games (he finished with 25 in 82 games).

Twenty-nine sounds pretty pedestrian, does it not? Maybe it once was, but in the age of better goalies in bigger padding, defensive systems, and balanced, four-line attacks, that total has weaseled its way into the upper-echelon.

Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Jarome Iginla, and Tomas Tatar scored 29 goals apiece in 2014-15, tying for 16th on the goal scoring list for the season. Never had players been so high leaders list with such a scoring output. When Mark Scheifele and Mike Hoffman tied for 29th with 29 goals last season, it marked the fifth time in six years 29 goals ranked in the top 30 during an 82-game season.

Marchand’s cap hit of $6.125 million is tied for 50th as the player salaries are currently constituted. The counterargument to that is he’s finished in the top 50 in points just twice, one of which was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The other was this past campaign, which ultimately earned him this extension.

Marchand’s best work has been on the penalty kill, where he’s been one of the league’s best since entering the NHL. His 25 shorthanded points since the start of the 2010-11 season is tops in the NHL, the next-closest to his 19 goals being Jonathan Toews and Frans Nielsen, with 13. Marchand’s Tasmanian Devil-style approach without the puck fits him well as the role of the offensive zone lone-man in on the PK. His quick stick helps break the puck movement and flow of opposing power play units. He averaged a career-high 2:00 of shorthanded time per game last season.

The last number points at what might be the biggest factor surrounding the logic behind Marchand’s extension. His role in Claude Julien’s lineup is expanding.

Aside from the shorthanded time on ice, Marchand set career-highs in even strength time on ice per game (15:07) and overall time on ice (18:36). His 1:28 of man-advantage time was the highest since the 1:44 he averaged in 2012-13.

In his first few seasons in the league, Marchand logged 16-17 minutes of ice time per game, on average; 14 minutes of five-on-five, 1:30 shorthanded, his time on the man-advantage around 2:00 in his first couple years before dissipating to 30 seconds to a minute for a while before spiking back up this past season.

It’s clear he’s becoming a go-to player for Julien, an all-situations player that is in low demand in the NHL.

So is he worth the money? The answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, he only appears to be getting better.

An Interesting Breakdown of Alex Ovechkin’s Numbers

So Alex Ovechkin scored his 500th and 501st career goals in the Capitals Sunday night drubbing of the Senators, a 7-1 decision. But you already knew that.

In celebration of the Russian’s latest milestone, Rob Vollman of NHL.com offered an interesting breakdown of Ovechkin’s numbers over the years, and determining his place among the greatest goal scorers to lace up the skates.

What Vollman found, using the peak three-season adjusted scoring index, was Ovechkin’s best three seasons (which came from 2008-2010, when he scored 171 goals) was tied for the second-best, trailing only Brett Hull, who had the best three-year peak when he scored 228 from 1990-92 (172 adjusted to today’s levels). Ovechkin’s peak, which adjusts at 164, is tied with Wayne Gretzky.

However, according to the adjusted goals statistic put out by hockey-reference.com, Ovechkin is 19th all-time with 603. Only Jaromir Jagr (2nd, 826) and Jarome Iginla (6th, 691) rank higher. Those two are also players at the tail-end of their respective careers, putting in nearly two decades of NHL service time. Ditto Marian Hossa and Patrick Marleau, the other two active players who rank in the top 30. Ovechkin is in only his 11th season, having just turned 30 in September. He already ranks ahead of the likes of Mike Modano (578), Jean Beliveau (575), and Stan Mikita (541).

Among the top 50 goal scorers ever, Ovechkin is third with 0.63 goals per game, trailing only Mike Bossy (0.76) and Mario Lemieux (0.75).

With 501 goals, Ovechkin is 42nd all-time among goal scorers in NHL history. With 26 goals in 41 games for the Capitals, who are sitting in the drivers seat for the Presidents Trophy with 67 points, Ovechkin is on pace to score 52 goals, which would give him 527 goals at season’s end, good enough for 33rd on the all-time list.