It's actually been a couple of weeks now that the Washington Capitals have been dealing with questions about Alex Ovechkin breaking Sergei Fedorov's record for goals by a Russian-born NHLer (geez, Alex, what took you so long?). Ovie finally did it last night against Dallas, so his teammates are now off the hook.
And to be fair, there's only so many ways Evgeny Kuznetsov can say that he's excited for Ovechkin and that the young Russian center had also watched Fedorov when he was growing up. But dutifully, the pivot did it one more time when I was in Washington recently and asked him what it's like to actually play on a line with Ovechkin.
“It’s a dream," Kuznetsov said. "Everybody wants to play with a guy like Ovie. We have a great group of guys and he can play with anybody.”
Ovechkin was actually back with old running mate Nicklas Backstrom when he sunk the record puck, but spent a good chunk of this campaign with Kuznetsov feeding him passes. The winger on the other side of Ovie has more consistently been T.J. Oshie, one of Washington's big acquisitions over the summer.
The erstwhile St. Louis Blues favorite has been adjusting to life in the Eastern Conference, but it's a move that has been made a lot easier by team success and great linemates.
“He’s great," Oshie said. "He’s very unselfish with the puck – he hooked me up a couple times where I should probably have a few more game-winning goals."
Which is awesome, but Ovie's bread and butter is goal-scoring. When it comes to that specialty, Oshie has also seen the drive that led the Russian sniper to 484 tallies and counting.
"In other instances, you can tell when he wants to score, it’s hard for the other team to keep the puck away from their net," Oshie said. "He’s a dynamic player and definitely takes some of the attention off his other two linemates, whoever he’s playing with.”
Now that the pressure is off – Ovechkin went four scoreless games between tying the record and breaking it – the Caps and No. 8 can continue to concentrate on the bigger picture of winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup. All the elements appear to be there, from strength at forward, defense and goaltending to possession metrics and great special teams.
And if the Caps need a goal in Game 7…well, actually, that's Justin Williams' job – but you can guarantee opponents will still have to keep a close eye on Ovechkin; he's pretty good at either scoring or distracting.