Red-hot Ovechkin to test Oilers
Keeping Capitals’ captain contained key for Edmonton
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.