By Bruce Penton
Fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal sing ‘Day O’ when they get excited about their Habs, but in Washington, and all around the National Hockey League for that matter, a drawn-out version of “AAAAAA OOOOOO" should be part of the night’s entertainment in tribute to the greatest sniper of our time, the Great 8, Alex Ovechkin.
The Capitals captain, whose personal career highlight came last June when Washington won its first Stanley Cup, is a goal-scorer’s goal scorer and it seems he’s getting better with age.
There’s no argument about this, however: Ovechkin is the best Russian-born player to ever play in the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov had or are having terrific careers, but it’s hard to argue with more than 650 goals, and counting. Just 33 years old, Ovechkin doesn’t seem to be slowing down. His fans bring out their calculators, punch in a few numbers and voila! — five more 50-goal seasons or seven 35-goal campaigns and even the 894-goal total of the greatest of all time, Wayne Gretzky, would be eclipsed by Ovechkin on the NHL’s career goal-scoring list.
If he continued on his late-February pace toward a 58- or 60-goal season, Ovechkin would record the second most prolific scoring season of his career, trailing only the 65 goals he tallied in his third season in the league. But he has been a model of consistency, with seven 50-plus-goal seasons and a career low of 32 goals in 2012-13. Most NHLers would give up their red Ferrari or annual trip to Kauai in exchange for a single 32-goal season.
NHL goalies know where Ovechkin will be and what he will attempt to do while the Capitals are on the power play, but are virtually powerless to stop him. He sets up near the left face-off circle, waits while his mates pass it around enough to get the goaltender leaning a particular way and then quickly drift the puck over to Ovechkin, who’s already winding up while the puck is en route. Then, in a blur, he fires the puck in excess of 100 MPH and, more often than not, beats the overmatched netminder, setting off yet another celebration.
The future Hall of Famer is not just about goal-scoring, however. He plays with an obvious joy on the ice and despite a rugged style of play, he’s durable. Only once in his career has he missed more than 10 games in a season.
In Washington these days, the go-to phrase is not Russian collusion, but, thanks to Ovechkin, it’s Russian celebration.
• Dwight Perryof the Seattle Times: “The Mariners, whose home becomes ’T-Mobile Park’ this season, say they’ll keep only the ’S’ from the big Safeco Field letters that were removed from the ballpark last week. Fed-up fans, noting the team’s 18-year playoff drought, immediately put in first dibs on the ‘L’.”
• Comedy writer Tim Hunter, on Colorado State selling wine and beer at home basketball games: “If you’ve seen them play, you’ll understand why.”
• Hockey Night in Canada curmudgeon Brian Burke, on the scoring woes of Jets’ Patrik Laine: “This is not a slump now. This is a horrible Grand Canyon of failure.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on Twitter: “If Robert Kraft’s misdemeanor charge of soliciting a prostitute ultimately goes to replay review, he will be exonerated.”
• Perrry again: “Look who’s back, back, back in the booth. Former ESPN icon Chris Berman will be among the rotating stable of announcers calling call Red Sox games on WEEI Radio this year. Mookie ‘Gentlemen, Place Your’ Betts and Mitch ‘This Land Is’ Moreland refused comment.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Zion Williamson of Duke hurt his knee when his Nike shoe fell apart in a game. Somewhere in China there is a six-year-old who is in a whole lot of trouble.”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “A final score from the Canadian women’s curling championship: PEI 13; New Brunswick 12. Put it this way: they exceeded the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl total by three field goals.”
• Currie again: “An ESPN pundit suggested the Westminster Dog Show was biased because for the 47th time out of 115 events, a terrier won. Why not say it’s fixed — or in dog terms: call a spay a spay?”
• Another one from Currie: “The Hartford Yard Goats baseball team no longer serves peanuts or Cracker Jack due to nut allergies. A few years ago Mariners also solved a nut problem: they cut Milton Bradley.”
• Headline at TheOnion.com: “Diamondbacks settle long-standing civil suit with offspring of bird hit by Randy Johnson’s fastball.”
Dwight Perryagain: 20/20 hindsight: Marshawn Lynch should have run. Robert Kraft should have passed.” Care to comment? Email firstname.lastname@example.org