I was thinking about the highly-anticipated Caps-Wings game last night before it started, about how Detroit would prepare for an evening when Washington captain Alex Ovechkin had the chance to break Sergei Fedorov's record for most goals by a Russian-born NHLer.
Fedorov, who was just inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, had been asked late last week about the impending milestone and told NHL.com that he hoped Ovechkin would wait until Tuesday's game against Detroit to break his record (instead of the previous game vs. Toronto). He even dropped the ceremonial puck last night.
But in my head, I imagined Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill motivating his troops thusly:
"OK boys (that's how all hockey speeches start), we know Ovechkin is gonna try to get that goal tonight and we know 'Feds' is hoping he does it here. But guess what? THAT RECORD DOES NOT GET BROKEN ON OUR ICE. 'Feds' wore the Winged Wheel with pride (never mind he also played with Ovechkin on the Caps – motivational speeches always contain poetic license) and No. 8 will just have score that goal some other time, ARE YOU WITH ME?????
I have no idea if this is how Blashill talks behind closed doors, but the fact is his netminder was a brick wall last night:
Fifteen shots. That's how many Ovechkin directed at Petr Mrazek's net and that's how many were turned away. In fact, Mrazek stopped all 38 Washington shots on the night, earning his sixth career shutout and adding to his growing legacy as one of the game's great emerging goaltenders.
I happened to be in Washington last week and as practice was winding down, a small group of Caps hung out at the blueline to watch as defenseman John Carlson served up passes to Ovechkin in that favored spot of his. Ovechkin calmly blasted one-timers and more often than not, they hit their mark at a ferocious velocity.
According to a Hockey Night in Canada statistician, Ovechkin's 15 shots without a goal were the most for a player since 1967-68, while Hockey-reference.com reveals that Ovie has had 17 games in his career in which he took at least 10 shots and didn't score.
Of course, Ovechkin has also had many games in which he has scored multiple times and he will break Fedorov's record as soon as Thursday against Philadelphia (the way the Flyers are playing lately, it's almost a foregone conclusion), which is incredibly impressive. Because it took Fedorov 1,248 games to hit his mark of 483 goals, while Ovechkin tied it in 772.
Think about how amazing Fedorov was and appreciate that Ovechkin is far from finished yet.