Red-hot Ovechkin to test Oil­ers

Keep­ing Cap­i­tals’ cap­tain con­tained key for Ed­mon­ton

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - JIM MATHE­SON jmath­e­[email protected]­media.com

ED­MON­TON Alex Ovechkin has eight goals in eight games and is scor­ing at an un­godly 23.5 per cent, about dou­ble his ca­reer aver­age.

If you’re Ed­mon­ton goal­tender Cam Tal­bot, that should make for an in­ter­est­ing night when the Oil­ers play host to the Great 8 and the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals on Thurs­day.

Ovechkin, 33, shows no signs of slow­ing down, with 615 ca­reer NHL goals, 16th all-time and 10 back of Joe Sa­kic and Jarome Iginla.

Tal­bot has played all 418 min­utes and 32 sec­onds Ed­mon­ton has had a goalie in net this sea­son, but his num­bers slipped when the Pen­guins beat him for six goals on Tues­day.

That said, that’s the only game where you might be think­ing “not enough saves.”

Here are five things to watch for in Thurs­day’s game:

1.

Stay out of the box

The Cap­i­tals are men­ac­ing on the power play, click­ing at al­most 40 per cent in their eight games. They have 12 goals in 31 tries, with Evgeny Kuznetsov pump­ing in five. He doesn’t have an even-strength goal yet, but Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Nick Back­strom have 11 of the dozen on the PP. Might be an idea to stay out of the box.

2.

Bat­ten down the hatches

The Cap­i­tals have 34 goals in eight games, with ev­ery reg­u­lar for­ward save for fourth-liner An­dre Bu­rakovsky scor­ing at least once. There’s lit­tle to choose be­tween their top two lines with Ovie and Kuznetsov on one and T.J. Oshie and Back­strom on the other. That means dou­ble the trou­ble for the top two Oil­ers de­fence pairs (Adam Lars­son and Os­car Klef­bom; Dar­nell Nurse and Kris Rus­sell), just like it did in the Pitts­burgh game go­ing against the Sid­ney Crosby and Ev­geni Malkin lines.

3.

Time for some Strome

We’re seven games in and third­line cen­tre Ryan Strome still doesn’t have a point, play­ing about 14:30 a game. He has only 11 shots in the seven games, and ob­vi­ously has to pro­vide more to help Con­nor McDavid and Leon Drai­saitl of­fen­sively.

4.

Carl­son ver­sus en­tire Oil­ers D The Caps’ de­fence­man, who signed an eight-year, US$64-mil­lion deal this sum­mer, has five goals and 13 points in eight games. The whole Ed­mon­ton back end has 11 points and one goal by Nurse in OT in Win­nipeg. Only Mor­gan Rielly in Toronto had more points than Carl­son en­ter­ing play Wednes­day. Wash­ing­ton’s de­fence has seven goals in those eight games. That’s smokin’ folks.

5.

Keep power play rolling

They aren’t Caps strong, but the Oil­ers are dan­ger­ous with seven power-play goals. McDavid has four on the man ad­van­tage. Only Kuznetsov (5) had more en­ter­ing Wednes­day’s ac­tion. So far, that five left-handed shots (McDavid, Drai­saitl, Ryan Nu­gent-Hop­kins, Mi­lan Lu­cic and Klef­bom) ex­per­i­ment on the power play looks just fine, with lots of puck move­ment, not the in­ces­sant pass­ing be­fore a hope­ful shot and try­ing to feed pucks through the box that got knocked away like last year.

Alex Ovechkin

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