Alex Ovechkin chasing 60 goals and a playoff berth for the Capitals

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Mar 4, 2008
The Hockey News

Alex Ovechkin chasing 60 goals and a playoff berth for the Capitals

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Mar 4, 2008

After reaching a significant scoring milestone, Alex Ovechkin hangs the puck on a wall in his home to signify the achievement.

The next one he hopes to put up might not be for the milestone you'd think.

Ovechkin is on pace to become the NHL's first 60-goal man in 12 years but says he'd rather get the Washington Capitals to the playoffs and score his first career goal in the post-season than reach 60 goals in the regular season.

He loves to score but enjoys team achievements even more.

"When you score lots of goals and you have lots of points, it's good but it's (not always) good for your team," Ovechkin said Tuesday on a conference call. "Maybe some fans, maybe some people will think, 'Oh, he's selfish. He just wants to score goals, he doesn't want to win.'

"I don't want to look like (I'm) selfish, you know?"

The Russian has been a shining star for the Capitals since entering the NHL three years ago. He had a hat trick in the first period of Monday night's game to surpass 50 goals for the second time and tie his career-best with 52 goals.

Fifty goals has always been a magic mark for NHL goal-scorers and Ovechkin is no different.

"All players want to score 50 goals because it's very hard to do in the NHL," he said. "I'm very happy right now."

Adding to his elation is that it came not long after the worst goal-scoring drought of his career. Ovechkin was stuck on 48 goals for a seven-game stretch before getting No. 49 against Toronto on Saturday.

Ovechkin admits that he got "a little nervous" during the drought. He started checking sticks and even wondered if he needed some new superstitions.

"I looked at everything," said Ovechkin. "I think the players who love to score goals - whose job is to score goals - (if they) don't score (for) lots of games they just try to figure out what's going on.

"Maybe (your) luck's gone out."

He sought advice from family members and Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. The overwhelming message he received in return was to just stay patient and keep things simple.

Boudreau, for one, was never concerned about his star player.

"You can't keep a guy like Alex down," he told reporters after Monday's game. "If you get six, seven shots on goal every night, you're going to score goals, especially when your shot is as powerful as his."

The last NHLer to surpass 60 goals in a season was Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. He had 69 goals in 70 games that year while his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Jaromir Jagr had 62.

Ovechkin needs to score eight times over the final 15 games to get to 60.

Wayne Gretzky holds the record with the 92 goals he scored for Edmonton during the 1981-82 season. The 22-year-old Ovechkin doesn't have any number in mind for how many times he might be able to score in a year moving forward.

"You never know," he said. "Yesterday I can't even imagine that I'd score three goals in the first period. Sometimes everything can go in. Sometimes you can have an empty net and miss the empty net."

He might not even have to score again this year to win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's goal-scoring leader. Ovechkin was 10 goals ahead of Ilya Kovalchuk heading into Tuesday's games.

But that's not something he'll be watching closely. Instead, Ovechkin is focused on the standings where the Capitals are looking to catch Carolina and win the Southeast Division. The Caps trail the Hurricanes by three points and hold a game in hand.

After acquiring goalie Cristobal Huet and forward Sergei Fedorov at the trade deadline, Ovechkin believes that Washington is good enough to make the playoffs.

"Right now we have young guys and great experienced guys," said Ovechkin.

The biggest reason they have a chance to win is because of him.

Ovechkin claims there isn't much secret to his success. He's taken almost 70 more shots on goal than any other player in the NHL.

"It's all about shooting," he said. "Sometimes you just have to keep shooting. If you don't shoot you never score goals.

"If I have a chance to shoot, I'm always shooting."

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Alex Ovechkin chasing 60 goals and a playoff berth for the Capitals