Alex Ovechkin talks about his DVD “Alex Ovechkin: The Gr8”

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It’s safe to say that Alex Ovechkin is a big star. Understatement of the year, we know. Not too many players get a DVD dedicated to them done up by the NHL by Ovechkin’s got one out now titled “Alex Ovechkin: The Gr8” that looks at the Alex Ovechkin you don’t know. The guy who, behind the scenes, is still living the life of a superstar athlete but has a family system back home that’s as strong and dedicated as Ovechkin is to the Capitals.

In talking with Ovechkin about the DVD, he felt it was important to show the influence his home and family has on him.

“It was important to show my family. It was important for them to be in there. They’re a big part of my life. It’s important for other Russian players to see. ”

In meeting Alex’s mother and father on the DVD, you see what a bond they’ve got. His father Mikhail and mother Tatyana are tremendous influences on his life. His mother, as you may already know, was a star basketball player for the Soviet Union winning gold medals in the Olympics. His father grew up a soccer player. I asked Alex about whether his mother’s status as a national basketball hero helped him prepare for life as a superstar.

“Oh sure, my mother was very important but my father did so much for me,” Ovechkin says. “He was there at every practice, he took me to every game. Dad was with me everywhere growing up. Without him I don’t know where I’d be.”

If it wasn’t for your parents and hockey, what would you be doing?

“Oh I don’t even know. I don’t even think about that at all. I’m happy to be here now.”

Seeing Alex interact with his family and friends on the DVD made for a great treat to see. Let’s face it, for as big of a star as Ovechkin is here in America, we really don’t know a whole lot about the guy. We’ve seen plenty of things in GQ Magazine and elsewhere that portrays Ovechkin as a cocky kid living the life as a high-flying playboy. Fast cars, fast women and the like. Seeing a more grounded version of Alex Ovechkin back in Russia made for a more natural setting for a guy who’s one of the biggest stars in the world.

You see Alex showing off where he grew up, the apartment he lived as a kid. You meet his friends and hell, you even see him take his pals to McDonald’s. See, he’s a pretty regular guy even when ordering a Royale with cheese. No,  Jules from “Pulp Fiction” was there to witness it.

As for hockey, Alex’s day job, the first scenes you see on the DVD are of the Capitals collapse and failure against the Montreal Canadiens in last year’s playoffs. If you don’t think that’s motivation for Alex, you’re kidding yourself.

“That was a pretty hard time for us,” Ovechkin said. “We’re really disappointed with how things ended last year. Now we’re just excited to get back to the playoffs and show that we can do better and try to win the Cup.”

Things aren’t all serious business though for Alex Ovechkin. He loves his life, he loves his sports cars (“I don’t know which one I’m getting next. I’ll let you know when I pick one,” he tells me) , he loves just having fun. You see it out of him on the ice, and in virtually every piece of video on this DVD you see it from him off the ice as well.

One famous clip shows when Ovechkin was presented with the key to the city in Washington, D.C. and when greeted with a huge crowd he says, “Today is a big day. I have a key for the city. And I’m the president this day in the city, so everybody have fun—and no speed limit.” He’s a rock star and at 25 years-old, who can blame the guy for hamming things up at all ever.

You don’t usually get to see such an enjoyable and thoughtful introspective into a guy like this who’s arguably the biggest star in his sport and find out what makes him tick and where he’s come from. Sure if you’re not a Capitals fan or not an Ovechkin fan you may not be interested in what this video’s got to offer, but if you’re a hockey fan and you’re looking to find out what makes a big star tick, this is about as good as it gets. From the love he’s got for his team, the love he’s got for his family (and vice versa) it’s a wonderful thing to see. I’d recommend checking this out if you’ve got the time and the interest in seeing what makes Alex so great.

Quick hits with Ovi

Random things I got to find out when talking with Alex Ovechkin in quick hit fashion. Some of these things you might know already, some you might not, others likely won’t surprise you at all.

Favorite place to be in D.C.: “Verizon Center. It’s like home.”

Thoughts on countryman Evgeni Malkin: “We’re buddies. We’re teammates when we play for Russia, but we like to beat each other. It’s part of the fun.”

Thoughts on how he and Alex Semin are doing this year: “He’s great. We’re playing very well but we can get better.”

Favorite city to be in aside from Washington: “Montreal. It’s a great place to be. I love the people, I love the excitement. It’s a fun place to be.”

Least favorite city to be in: “Buffalo. It’s just tough there.”

Reason for wearing #8: “It was my mother’s number in basketball.”

It all comes back to family.

How the Oilers became the NHL’s biggest disappointment

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At the start of the 2017-18 season the Edmonton Oilers were one of the top Stanley Cup favorites.

They were one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals and they have the reigning league MVP and scoring champion (and arguably the game’s best player). All of that seemed to indicate a team that was on the verge of taking another major step and breaking through as one of the league’s elite teams. Their preseason Stanley Cup odds from Bovada were second best in the league to only the back-to-back champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The bandwagon was filling up.

Here we are not just a quarter of the way through the season and there is no debating that the Oilers have not only failed to reach those sky-high expectations, they are clearly the league’s biggest disappointment.

Entering play on Wednesday — and following an 8-3 drubbing at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night — the Oilers have the third worst points percentage in the league, ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres. Their minus-19 goal differential is fourth-worst. They have managed to win just four games in regulation with only two of them coming over the past month.

So, how did they get here? Let us try to figure it out.

It starts with the people upstairs

Three years ago the Oilers were given a gift from the hockey draft gods when they won the lottery and the right to select Connor McDavid. It was the fourth time in six years they won the top pick and this time were able to pick a player that would quickly become the best offensive player in the league. Since McDavid entered the league he has more than lived up to the hype with a 1.18 points per game average that is tops among all players (minimum 100 games played) during that stretch.

As great as McDavid has been, he can not do it all on his own. This is not the NBA where one or two great players can carry a team deep into the playoffs (or even into the playoffs at all). There has to be a supporting cast around them, and the Oilers have quickly sabotaged their chances to do that through some brutal roster and asset management.

Let’s just examine some of the moves made by Peter Chiarelli since taking over as the Oilers’ general manager.

His first move was to trade two top-33 picks (No. 16 overall and No. 33 overall) to the New York Islanders for defenseman Griffin Reinhart. The Islanders used that pick to select Matthew Barzal, currently one of the top rookies in the NHL this season. Reinhart played 30 forgettable games with the Oilers before moving on to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights this season.

Then came the one-for-one trades: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, and then Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome.

Both trades have played a significant role in reducing the team’s scoring depth.

Since being traded Hall’s 26 goals and 74 points would make him the third most productive player on the Oilers. His point total this season alone would make him the team’s second-leading scorer behind McDavid. Eberle’s 14 points would make him the team’s fourth-leading scorer.

The return for the Oilers has not come close to matching that production. Larsson is a solid, if unspectacular defenseman, while Strome’s offense has been non-existent. Even at his best Strome was never quite on par with what Eberle has shown to be capable of on a regular basis. Those trades have devastated the Oilers’ scoring depth and are now left with a team that is 27th in the league in goals scored and seems to be unable to generate any offense when McDavid is not on the ice.

In three years Chiarelli has traded two picks in the top-33 of a draft, a top-line forward and gave Kris Russell, a borderline second-to third-pairing defenseman to help improve the defense and the team is still desperate for defensive help.

That is a lot of bad roster management, and it is wasting what might be some of McDavid’s best years in the league.

Cam Talbot can’t get a break

Literally, he can not get a night off.

The Oilers’ goals against numbers improved dramatically a season ago and a lot of credit for that improvement was directed toward the additions of Larsson and Russel. The reality is that a lot of it had to do with Talbot helping to solidify the goaltending position.

His save percentage wasn’t anything spectacular and at .917 was fairly close to the league average. But Talbot played 72 games and if you can get average to slightly above league average goaltending for 72 games that is going to be a positive value to your team, especially with where the Oilers were coming from in recent seasons. His performance, combined with his durability to play that many games, probably shaved 15 goals off the Oilers’ goals against totals.

Talbot has not been as strong so far this season, and given that he has already played a league-high 19 games you have to wonder if maybe that workload is starting to catch up with him.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season Talbot has played in 93 regular season games. Only three other goalies have played in more than 80 and only one (Frederik Andersen, 85) has played in more than 83. He has faced 2,688 shots.

That does not include the 13 playoff games and 437 shots he faced in the playoffs. That is a ton of work for a goalie over a season-and-a-quarter.

The Oilers have no adequate backup that can give him any sort of a break.

Lucky or unlucky?

There does seem to be an element of some bad luck to the Oilers’ struggles this season. Their possession and shot attempt numbers are among the best in the league, and they do seem to be struggling with some poor percentages on the offensive end.

When it comes to the save percentage numbers and Talbot’s struggles it is worth wondering if that extensive workload over the past two seasons has started to wear him down.

It is also worth wondering if they had a lot of players play over their heads a season ago, specifically when it came to players like Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu. That duo combined for 43 goals a season ago. They have combined for 8 so far this season. That puts them on pace for about 15 over 82 games. Combine that with the offense they are losing going from Eberle to Strome, as well as the absence of Hall and that is a big chunk of offense going away and helps explain how a team with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkings all averaging close to a point-per-game is 26th in the league in goals scored.

You might be reading all of this and thinking to yourself, relax, Gretz, it’s only Thanksgiving. Still a lot of hockey left to be played. Sure, there is a lot of hockey remaining in the season. The problem for teams like the Oilers is NHL history tells us the standings do not tend to change much once the calendar rolls over to December. Currently the Oilers are already seven points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference and eight points out of one of the three playoff spots in the Pacific Division.

Points are difficult to make up as the season goes on and teams that are already this far out do not tend to make them up.

Perhaps the Stanley Cup for this Oilers team was a little too premature, mainly because they have managed to squander any chance of building a competitive team around the best player in the world through some terrible roster management.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Buffalo Sabres reveal 2018 Winter Classic jersey (Photos)

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Black Friday is two days away, so naturally it’s a great time for the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers to reveal their jerseys for the 2018 Winter Classic which will take place on Jan. 1 at Citi Field in Queens.

[2018 Winter Classic: Buffalo Sabres vs. New York Rangers at Citi Field]

While we await what the Rangers will wear, the Sabres are going with a classic look that will have you thinking of the days of Alex Mogilny, Pat LaFontaine and Donald Audette, as well as the 2008 Winter Classic.

That “NY” at the bottom of the logo? That’s a “marker of the interstate matchup,” according to the Sabres. The royal blue harkens back to their original color scheme from the 1970s and the jersey also features three secondary logos. The buffalo features SABRES on it, a pair of crossed swords on the pants and the Buffalo script wordmark on the helmet.

It’s a real sharp look with a solid color scheme and one of the more memorable logos.

What do you think?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL on NBCSN: Lightning look to keep rolling against Blackhawks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here

After missing the playoffs last season, the Lightning couldn’t have envisioned getting off to a better start this season. Through 20 games, only the St. Louis Blues (33 points in 22 games) have picked up more points than the Bolts (32 points in 20 games). As you can see from the numbers, Tampa has games in hand on St. Louis and they only trail by one point.

The Lightning are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday, but that was their first regulation defeat since Oct. 28 in Anaheim.

There’s many reasons why they’ve been so good this season, but look no further than the line of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov. That trio has been lights out so far this season, as they’ve combined to score 88 points in 20 games.

Add the stellar play of blue liners Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Anton Stralman, as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s dominance between the pipes, and it’s easy to see why they’re playing so well.

After tonight’s game, the Lightning will hit the road to close out the month. They’ll travel to Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Boston over the next week.

Since falling apart in a 7-5 loss to the Devils on Nov. 12, the Blackhawks have won each of their last two games (6-3 over the Rangers, 2-1 against Pittsburgh).

If the playoffs started today, the ‘Hawks wouldn’t be in, but the playoffs don’t start today, so there’s plenty of time for them to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Tonight, they’ll have their hands full with the potent Tampa Bay attack, and they have to play a sound game if they want to come out on top.

“You have to know who’s out there, who can make plays,” goalie Corey Crawford said of the Lightning, per the Chicago Tribune. “Who is more of a drive-to-the-net, gritty player. You have to be patient. Their D-men are in the rush as lot. They’re going to have guys coming through the middle.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

It’s been a tough start to the season for Kyle Palmieri’s feet

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It’s been a tough start to the season for Kyle Palmieri‘s feet.

After missing six games because of a left foot/ankle injury he suffered in practice late last month, the Devils announced that Palmieri is back on the shelf because of a broken right foot.

The latest injury occurred during Monday’s game against the Minnesota Wild, after he blocked a shot. The team says they expect him to miss anywhere between four and six weeks.

The Devils are off to a fantastic start this season (they’re 12-5-3 record has them in first place in the Metropolitan Division), but there’s no doubt that losing Palmieri for an extended period of time will hurt.

The 26-year-old has four goals and five assists in 13 games this season. He’s also coming off 30 and 26-goal seasons over the last two years.

Here’s your daily reminder that hockey players are tough:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.