Alex Ovechkin

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PHT Morning Skate: Luongo on Parkland; Tocchet takes a leave of absence


Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at

• What do we think of Artemi Panarin‘s new hat? [Twitter]

Alex Ovechkin‘s parents pen him a letter after the Washington Capitals superstar notched career goal No. 600. []

Evgeny Kuznetsov adequately sums up Ovechkin’s feat: “Holy f— that’s a lot of goals.” [RMNB]

• Florida Panthers goalie and Parkland resident Roberto Luongo: “We need to keep talking about this” [ESPN]

• Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet is taking a leave of absence due to an illness in his family. Assistant coach John MacLean will take over coaching duties until Tocchet returns. [Coyotes]

Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators on the trade that nearly sent him and Erik Karlsson out of town: “I heard on Sunday it was done and somebody backed out at the last second. Karl and I were like, ‘pack it up’. We thought we were gone. That’s just the way it goes. Then you’re like, I’ve got to move again? I guess I’ll just wait and see how it goes in the summer. That’s all you can do.” [Ottawa Sun]

• What do you do when you’re a team with one “Hartsy” and you add another? Ask the Nashville Predators and Ryan Hartman and Scott Hartnell. [Tennessean]

• Speaking of the Preds, who’s going to stop them? [TSN]

• Is it time to worry about Andre Vasilevskiy’s workload with the Tampa Bay Lightning? [Raw Charge]

• As they cling to a playoff spot out west, the Anaheim Ducks are keeping an eye on the teams around them. [OC Register]

• Brian Gionta and Chris Kelly go from the Olympics straight into the NHL playoff race. []

• The question facing the Carolina Hurricanes: What now? [Spector’s Hockey]

• Are scoring chances better than Corsi? [Maple Leafs Nation]

• A stick and jersey from Canadian women’s Olympic team players Sarah Nurse and Brigette Lacquette are heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Color of Hockey]

• It’s bracket time! So why not take a gander at what the NHL playoffs would look like if it was done like March Madness. [On the Forecheck]

• Finally, as Ovi hits 600, let’s hop in the wayback machine for one of his best goals ever:


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

Patrik Laine, Alex Ovechkin meet to kick off Rocket Richard stretch run

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From a team perspective, Monday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and visiting Winnipeg Jets has its own set of storylines.

A win for the Capitals would vault them back into first place in a volatile Metropolitan Division, a revolving throne that was last claimed on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Penguins leapfrogged the Caps with a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

For the Jets, a win accomplishes two things: First and foremost, it keeps a six-point gap between themselves and the Minnesota Wild for second place in the Central Division. Secondly, a win claws back a couple points from the Nashville Predators, who sit atop the summit of the toughest division in hockey with a seven-point lead.

Given that the Jets play Nashville on the back-to-back on Tuesday, they could close that gap to just three points with two wins on the trot over the next 48 hours.

But these are all team goals and mumbo jumbo. The real story on Monday night, in Washington, in Winnipeg, and across the NHL, is focused squarely on the battle between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine.

Yes, Monday’s game is the unofficial beginning of the race to the Rocket Richard Trophy.

[Who’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy?]

Both Ovechkin, a six-time winner, and Laine, a 19-year-old NHL sophomore, sit tied for first place on 40 goals, one ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is clearly in the race, as are a bevy of other players. But tonight’s spotlight is on the champ and the pretender.

Both teams have 14 games remaining on their respective schedules.

“It’s always been one of my dreams to win it,” Laine told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun over the weekend. “It’s something that every goal-scorer dreams about. There are still 15 games to go. There are a lot of things that can happen, but (along) with our team goals, it’s a good motivation for me.”

In many respects, Laine has emulated parts of what has made Ovechkin — Laine’s childhood idol — the NHL’s best goal-scorer since he was drafted years ago. Laine’s one-timer, like Ovi’s, is as lethal as they come. His position on the power play, Ovi’s office, as it were, is much the same. The release? Both are world-class, and well beyond their peers in the NHL.

Ovechkin has been scoring consistently all season long. For Laine, he’s produced 15 goals in his past 11 games, is on an 11-game point streak and has at least one goal in five-straight and nine of his last 10.

Unlike last season, where his offense sputtered down the stretch, Laine has come alive to make himself the favorite to capture his first goal-scoring crown.

Laine is shooting at a few ticks over 20 percent thus far and leads the NHL in power play goals with 18. And his scoring on Winnipeg’s current six-game road trip has helped his team tremendously in the win department. Laine has seven of the Jets’ 11 goals through four games. Winnipeg is 3-1-0 on the trip so far.

Ovechkin, by comparison, has just one goal in his past five games. But no one takes more shots in the NHL than the Great 8. His sheer volume would lead one to suggest that he’ll get back on that goal-scoring wagon soon. Perhaps even tonight.

On your marks.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Who’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy?

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It wasn’t long ago that Alex Ovechkin looked primed for his seventh Maurice Richard Trophy.

The Great 8 was consistently notching goals and keeping a distance between himself and his nearest competitors. What would be needed from prospective challengers to close the gap was a lengthy run in the goal department.

And that’s exactly what has happened.

The last couple of weeks have thrown a mighty wrench into Ovi’s plans of seeing his name engraved Rocket’s trophy again. This isn’t to say that Ovechkin won’t claim the title this season — he’s done it more times than anyone since it was introduced in 1999 — it’s just that the race has gotten pretty exciting as the NHL heads into its final swath of games.

Let’s break down the challengers and a couple pretenders who might get a promotion over the final few weeks of the season.


Alex Ovechkin:

The man the top snipers in the league have been chasing for the majority of the season. Entering Saturday’s action, Ovechkin sits on the throne when it comes to goal scoring. He’s the only man to have hit 40 this season and looks primed to add to that total over the past 15 games of the season. It’s certainly not out of the realm for Ovechkin to hit 50 this year, and he may need to do so to fend off some of those sitting very close behind him.


Patrik Laine:

Laine idolized Ovechkin growing up. And now he has an opportunity to snatch the goal scoring title from his childhood hero. Just 10 games ago, Laine was sitting with a cool 25 goals. Fast forward to Thursday night, and Laine scored his 14th goal in his past 10 games, putting him one behind Ovechkin in the race. What’s even more incredible about Laine is that he’s only 19 years old, and he plays the game like he has ice in his veins. It’s unlikely he’s going to let any nerves get to him as he tries to usurp Ovi. Did I mention Laine is only 19? Yikes.

Evgeni Malkin:

Our very own Joey Alfieri wrote an excellent piece on Malkin and why people haven’t been talking about him. Malkin has 24 goals in 28 games since the beginning of 2018. It’s an insane amount, and a run that has him sitting on 38 goals on the season. Malkin is going to be in the running for the Hart this season. Winning the Rocket Richard might put him over the top.

Eric Staal:

It’s been a decade since Staal produced a 40 goal season. He’s 33 now. But father time and the odds he brings don’t seem to care too much this season — Staal has simply turned back the clock. Staal’s heater has him with 18 goals in his past 20 games, putting him just three shy of Ovechkin with 37. Staal’s shooting percentage is sitting just below 20 percent this season and he’s averaging close to three shots a game. The math suggests he’s got a few more in him this season.

Tyler Seguin:

Seguin mirrors Ovechkin in terms of his consistency. While Laine, Malkin and Staal have gone on some pretty epic goal-scoring excursions, Seguin has just scored at a nice rate throughout the year. That means Seguin will need to have some sort of streaky stretch to catch up, but his 36 goals have him right in the mix. And even a small streak could swing things in his favor if the players above him cool off.


William Karlsson:

No one expected this. (And it’s one of the reasons why I debated having Karlsson in as a challenger). Out of all the top goal scorers in the league, Karlsson sits at the summit with a near-24 percent shooting percentage. The jury is really out on what Karlsson can do in Vegas’ last 15 games. He’s averaging north of two shots per game but hasn’t scored in his past three. No one expects him to win this race, and that’s what makes his 35 goals so intriguing.

Nathan MacKinnon:

You could put Nikita Kucherov here. He’s got one more goal than MacKinnon’s 32. But Colorado’s playoff hopes rest on MacKinnon’s shoulders and MacKinnon has shown all season that he’s up for the task. MacKinnon has eight goals in his past 10 games after being sidelined for three weeks due to injury. The odds aren’t the best, but he’s scoring a rate this season and rivals those ahead of him.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Halak stops 50 in shutout

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Be sure to visit and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Players of the Night:

Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders: The New York Rangers kept coming. And coming. And coming. The Blueshirts put up 50 shots on Halak, but the veteran netminder shut the door on each and every one of them in a heroic shutout effort.

Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals: Ovie had a four-point game, scoring his league-leading 34th goal (his 592nd in his career) and helping out on three others, including both of Wilson’s goals. Wilson also added an assist for a three-point night. Add in Nicklas Backstrom‘s goal and assist and the Capitals top line had a nine-point night.

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Barzal was instrumental in setting up all three Islanders goals. Furthermore, the rookie put himself in some elite company with his 60th, 61st and 62nd point of the season.

Marian Gaborik, Ottawa Senators and Dion Phaneuf, Los Angeles Kings: Both players made their debuts for their new teams after they were traded for each (and a couple other pieces) on Tuesday. Both ended up scoring a goal for their respective new teams.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Stopped 43 of 44 to help the Sharks get back to winning ways.

Highlights of the Night: 

Kucherov makes them all stand still:

Poor Henrik Lundqvist:

Matt Murray sprawlin’:

Factoids of the Night:


Penguins 3, Kings 1

Islanders 3, Rangers 0

Devils 5, Hurricanes 2

Senators 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Lightning 4, Red Wings 1

Capitals 5, Wild 2

Flames 4, Predators 3

Ducks 3, Blackhawks 2

Coyotes 5, Canadiens 2

Golden Knights 4, Oilers 1

Sharks 4, Canucks 1

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Evgeni Malkin rockets into Rocket Richard race

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Step aside SpaceX, Evgeni Malkin has blasted off.

For while there, it appeared that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Nikita Kucherov would battle it out for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

The two Russians traded places with each other on top of the goal-scoring summit, a two-horse race for bragging rights back home and around the NHL.

That in its own right would have been a fantastic duel to watch down the stretch here.

But Kucherov hasn’t scored in his past 11 games, and that’s opened the door for a couple others to join the race.

Vegas Golden Knights forward William Karlsson, for instance, inserted himself into the conversation among the best snipers in the NHL with 28 goals on the season. And if it wasn’t for another familiar sniper over the past 10 days, this article might be centering around the young Swede and his pursuit of Ovi.

Instead, over the past five games, Malkin — the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar who has flirted with Richard’s honor in the past — has skyrocketed into second place, two goals back of compatriot Ovechkin.

Malkin’s last five games have been nothing short of spectacular. Here’s a quick look:

Yes, Malkin has nine goals during a five-game goal-scoring streak.



ДЕВЯТЬ (Russian for nine)

He also has 16 tallies in his past 13 games. It’s a bit crazy.

Malkin is shooting at 43 percent during those five games and now sits at 18.4 percent on the season.

Unsurprisingly, Malkin’s torrid pace has equated to success for the Penguins, who have won four of their past five games and now sit in second in the Metropolitan Division. In a division that no one seems to want to put their stamp on, Malkin is doing his best to help the Penguins change that.

Malkin won’t continue shooting above 40 percent. But consider that he’s scoring a goal every 5.4 shots and that he’s averaging over three shots per game.

Math is hard, but this appears to mean a lot more goals could come off the stick of No. 71 before the season is over.

Grab some popcorn.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck