Alex Ovechkin

Bruce Boudreau expects Alex Ovechkin to be an even better leader this season

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When Alex Ovechkin was named captain of the Washington Capitals in January of 2010 it was a move that surprised many people. After all, the Caps had just been captained by veteran forward Chris Clark and after he traded there was a lot of discussion about who would take the captain’s “C” in D.C. After one full season and two different playoff runs as team captain, many have questioned whether or not Ovechkin is the man for the job.

After all, with veteran leaders acquired in recent time like Mike Knuble and Jason Arnott (now off to St. Louis) to help out in the locker room, some wonder if it’s a role that the still young Ovechkin is ready for. After Ovechkin’s play the last season and a half and continuing to lead the Capitals in scoring and even being labeled by the NHL as one of the league’s biggest hitters, at the very least Ovechkin is leading by example.

As for what his coach Bruce Boudreau thinks of how Ovechkin is doing as the team captain, he’s expecting that Ovechkin will be an even better team leader this season as the Caps shape up as a favorite for the Stanley Cup. Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post speaks to Boudreau about what he sees Ovechkin doing more of this time around to lead the Caps.

“It’s hard sometimes to go up there and criticize your teammates,” Boudreau said, before pointing out, “His English is getting better. His knowledge of North America is getting better. That’s going to have an effect. They’ll follow his lead.”

As for Ovechkin’s down statistical season last year that saw him hand out far more assists than goals (32 goals, 53 assists), it was still a great season, just not what we’re used to seeing out of the electrifying Ovechkin. Boudreau sees Ovechkin coming back this season as motivated as he ever has been.

“I fully expect Alex Ovechkin to come back into [training] camp mean as a bear,” Boudreau said. “I’m sure — and it’s well documented — that individually for him, he took more criticism at the end of last year for his totals in goals and points, and not being up for the Hart, and not being up for other awards.”

“He’s so proud, he’s probably like, ‘I’m going to show you.’ That’s his M.O. It’s not bravado. It’s a quiet, ‘I am one of the best, I want to be one of the best and I’m going to show ’em I’m one of the best.’”

An angry, motivated Ovechkin is the kind of Ovechkin we want to see on the ice. After a down goal scoring season, seeing Ovechkin reach the 50+ goal plateau again would help get his critics off his back. Of course, doing that while winning a Stanley Cup for the Capitals would damn well make sure to shut everyone up about the job he does on the ice. Sometimes being one of the best players in the game isn’t enough to satisfy the critics. Ovechkin will hope his motivation and his leadership can help keep the wolves at the door.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.