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.

NHL on NBCSN: Sabres look to extend win streak against Flyers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flyers always seem to have the same problem, and that’s goaltending. With Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both on the shelf, the Flyers will have to roll with Alex Lyon and Calvin Pickard. No disrespect to those players, but that’s not an ideal duo to have between the pipes.

The Flyers overcame a 5-1 deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, but Pickard allowed six goals on 26 shots in the overtime defeat. As for Lyon, he’s still waiting to make his first appearance for Philadelphia this season.

“We’ll roll with the best that’s out there, whether it’s what we have or something else,” said Flyers GM Ron Hextall. “Same as always. We’re always looking to upgrade our team if we can. We picked Calvin up because we believe in him and we also believe that Alex is pretty close. They’re gonna have a chance here and we’ll see how it goes.”

Hextall’s team has gone through some good and bad stretches already this season. They went 5-0-1 at the start of the month, but they’ve now dropped three home games in a row to Florida, New Jersey and Tampa. Now, they’re heading back on the road to take on a red-hot Sabres team. The one thing the Flyers have going for them, is that they’ve been better on the road (5-3-1) than at home (4-6-1).

Speaking of the Sabres, they’ll look to extend their winning streak to seven games tonight. There’s no denying that Buffalo has turned a corner. The additions of Jeff Skinner (trade) Carter Hutton (free agency) and Rasmus Dahlin (draft) have paid immediate dividends.

Skinner, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, already has 14 goals and 22 points in 21 games in his first season with the Sabres. Hutton has been between the pipes for five of the six consecutive wins. He has a 9-6-1 record with a 2.61 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s brought stability between the pipes. And Dahlin has averaged 18:27 this season while putting up 10 points in 21 games.

The Sabres’ winning streak was on the ropes earlier this week, but overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in overtime on Monday night.

“There’s a bit of confidence now because we’ve (come back) a few times,” said captain Jack Eichel. “I think it’s a trust and a belief in each other; you look around the room, the guys are believing that next line’s going to get the job done and set you up for your shift. We’re a pretty tight bunch right now for how many new guys came to this team, and we’re getting really close right now and we’re doing it for each other and that’s the biggest thing. Everyone goes out there and doesn’t want to let the guy next to them down. … we’re playing for each other right now, and that’s one of the most important things.”

The Sabres are currently sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division. They’re one point behind Tampa for second and two points behind the first-place Maple Leafs.

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.

Penguins trying to stay the course during bumpy start

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By WILL GRAVES (AP Sports Writer)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Sullivan’s regular film sessions with the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t lack for clues on why one of the NHL’s marquee franchises is in the midst of its bumpiest stretch in more than a decade.

The defense can morph into a disjointed mess under sustained pressure, particularly right in front of the net. The crisp breakouts that used to trigger odd-man rushes featuring some of the league’s most skilled players moving at warp speed have largely vanished and been replaced by something significantly sloppier.

Oh, and the NHL at large has caught up to the frenetic tempo Sullivan introduced when he took over nearly three years ago, a hiring that – combined with a roster makeover authored by general manager Jim Rutherford – helped power the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cups. In that way, Pittsburgh’s current struggles are a byproduct of its not-so-distant glory.

”For the most part it’s a copycat league and teams tend to try to emulate the teams that have success,” Sullivan said Tuesday. ”When you look at our team over the last handful of seasons, we’ve had pretty good success with a certain style of play.”

A style Sullivan has no plans to abandon even with Pittsburgh mired in a 1-7-2 funk that has dropped his club into a tie for the fewest points in the wide-open Eastern Conference a quarter of the way through the season.

”You look at the core of our players, (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Phil) Kessel, (Kris) Letang, all those guys can skate,” Sullivan said. ”They can still skate.”

The thing now is, so can everyone else.

The proof came to life over the last 30 minutes against Buffalo on Monday night, when the Sabres reeled off the final four goals, including Jake Eichel’s game-winner 45 seconds into overtime at the end of a sequence that began with a Malkin giveaway in the offensive zone.

It was the kind of miscue Pittsburgh used to pounce on with ruthless efficiency. Now it’s the Penguins who are making the crucial mistakes, ones that are ending up in the back of their own net with alarming regularity.

”I think we’ve been doing some really good things the last handful of games but we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit with a few plays,” forward Bryan Rust said. ”We’ve got to be a little bit more mindful of that and just dig down a little bit deeper and the bounces will eventually go our way.”

There is a fair amount of ”puck luck” that’s abandoned Pittsburgh at the moment. The Penguins were up two goals late in the second period against Buffalo when Pittsburgh defenseman Jack Johnson locked up Sabres forward Conor Sheary in front of the net. No matter. Casey Nelson‘s shot from the point deflected off Johnson’s skate and by goaltender Casey DeSmith.

Watching from afar while sitting out a third straight game nursing an upper body injury, Crosby could only scratch his head.

”I think the thing for us that’s probably been a little more difficult is, it’s not necessarily the same thing,” said the two-time MVP, who hopes to play on Wednesday when Pittsburgh hosts Dallas. ”We’ve found different ways to lose games and you know, we’ve probably corrected one thing and something else has been a factor in another game we lost.”

One thread, however, has been a constant: defense. The Penguins – particularly early in the season during the Crosby era – have occasionally been slow to tighten things up because they are so talented offensively that the finer points of playing responsibly in their own end can be lost.

In past years, Pittsburgh has been able to outscore opponents even on nights it didn’t particularly play well. That’s not happening at the moment. The loss to Buffalo marked the eighth time in 19 games the Penguins have allowed at least five goals, something they did 13 times all of last season.

While Sullivan is quick to point to the number of quality chances Pittsburgh created against Buffalo, he’s well aware his team was far too generous in front of DeSmith. Pittsburgh dominated the first period but only had a 1-1 tie to show for it after forward Dominik Simon lost his footing while attempting to help clear a puck. Buffalo kept it in the zone and a cross-ice pass led to a one-timer that Tage Thompson buried to even the game.

”We’ve got to do a better job defending and making sure we stay on the right side of the puck and the right side of people in the critical areas of the rink,” Sullivan said. ”That’s an area we can all improve as a team.”

Pittsburgh hasn’t missed the playoffs since Crosby’s rookie year in 2005-06 and Crosby stressed it is far too early to panic.

”It’s tight but we just have to make sure we eliminate our mistakes and give ourselves the best chance and I thought for the most part (against Buffalo) we were pretty in control of that game,” Crosby said. ”I think if we keep trending that way, we’ll learn from that one and get a lot more wins.”

Three quarters of the season remains. Though the Penguins have been ”meh” at best, the rest Metropolitan Division hasn’t exactly been lights out. Only eight points separate the Penguins from first-place Columbus. One good consistent stretch of hockey and things can change very quickly.

”You can’t control the ones you’ve let slip away,” Crosby said. ”Ten games from now, you don’t know where you’re going to be.”

Full AP NHL coverage: http://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

PHT Morning Skate: How to break out of scoring funk; Point’s Hart case

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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 phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year? Why not Gritty? (NHL.com)

• Now that Mike Yeo is out in St. Louis, the pressure will fall square on the shoulders of GM Doug Armstrong and his players. (St. Louis Game Time)

• If Craig Berube doesn’t get the interim tag removed from his title, who will be next in line to take over the head coaching reigns in St. Louis? (The Hockey News)

• Sportsnet’s Mark Spector explains why Ken Hitchcock is the perfect fit for the Edmonton Oilers. (Sportsnet)

• How does an NHLer break out of a scoring slump? Some members of the Minnesota Wild weigh in. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

• The Nashville Predators and the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators made a dream come true for this young fan from Northern Ireland. (ESPN)

Matt Duchene and the Ottawa Senators are inching closer toward an extension. (TSN)

• The Pittsburgh Penguins absolutely need to find a way to get Matt Murray back on track, or it could cost them their season. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

• Contrary to last season, the Montreal Canadiens are fun, fast, entertaining, and in a playoff spot. (Montreal Gazette)

• The Boston Bruins have iced a few young players on their roster, but what have they looked like through 20 games? (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

Brayden Point deserves to be on your Hart Trophy ballot after the first quarter of the season. (Raw Charge)

• “The Anaheim City Council voted 6-1 this evening to approve a multi-faceted agreement that includes extending the partnership between the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks and the City of Anaheim for at least 25 more years. The deal solidifies the Ducks continued commitment to the city through at least 2048 (five years remaining on initial agreement). As part of the agreement, the team’s name will remain the “Anaheim Ducks” for the duration of the partnership.” (Ducks)

• The Rangers might want to keep Chris Kreider for the foreseeable future. (Blue Shirt Banter)

Nico Hischier will return to the Devils lineup for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. (NHL.com)

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.

The Buzzer: Oilers give Hitchcock winning start behind the bench

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Three Stars

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: It was the captain’s second assist of the night that helped set up the overtime winner during a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. It was his goal that started the scoring for Edmonton that was the 100th of his NHL career. With three points, McDavid now has 31 on the season.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers: Along with a pair of helpers, Draisaitl scored his sixth career overtime winner 51 seconds into the extra period. He now has 13 tallies on the year.

3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: His goal early in the second period knotted the score at two and gave him three points in his last four games and 20 on the season.

Highlights of the Night

• In his 230th NHL game, McDavid hit the 100-goal mark in his career. Per the NHL, he’s the second-youngest (21 years, 311 days) player to achieve the feat, behind only Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 40 days).

 

Joe Thornton’s assist on Marcus Sorensen’s goal tied him with Mario Lemieux (1,033) for 11th on the all-time NHL list.

Logan Couture notched his seventh on the season, thanks to a sweet dangle around Adam Larsson. He now has 19 goals against the Oilers in his career, the most versus any team.

Factoid of the Night

Per the NHL, “McDavid became the fifth different player in franchise history to reach the 30-point mark in a season in 21 or fewer team games and first since Mark Messier in 1989-90 (19 GP). The franchise record for fewest team games to record 30 points in a season is 10, a mark set by Gretzky in 1984-85.”

Tuesday’s result
Oilers 4, Sharks 3 (OT)

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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.