Brooks Laich

My Favorite Goal: Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie in 2006

Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, James O’Brien remembers Alex Ovechkin‘s sprawling goal against the Coyotes during his rookie season in 2006.

The greatest goal scorer I’ve ever seen scored the greatest goal I’ve ever seen.

Hockey generally isn’t a sport that’s friendly to stars shining with huge individual moments, at least not compared to other sports. That’s what makes all of the symmetry so special, why even Ovechkin struggles to explain how he did it, and how his Capitals teammates couldn’t even replicate the moment in practice.

Unlike some other favorite goals, Ovechkin’s goal wasn’t directly important. It wasn’t even important in the game it happened; his crummy Capitals were already up 5-1 against the also-crummy Coyotes on Jan. 16, 2006 when Ovechkin scored “the goal.”

Ovechkin snatched the puck in the neutral zone, blasted past defenseman Paul Mara with a curl-and-drag move, but Mara took Ovechkin off of his feet. That should have been the end of it: a blur of speed and power that served as a reminder that Ovechkin can make something out of nothing.

And then he really made something out nothing.

Ovechkin was essentially spinning on his back and neck, yet he somehow found a way to not only get a shot off, but to hook his arm in a way that sent the puck right into the net. A sprawling Brian Boucher couldn’t do anything about it, and even Wayne Gretzky had to marvel at the replay during his darkest hockey days as coach of the Coyotes.

Gretzky’s face would be our face … if his jaw also hit the floor.

Ovechkin’s goal against the Coyotes was one of those albums that only gets better the more you listen to it, or a movie that only improves with further viewings. What I’m saying is that it was “The Big Lebowski” of goals.

Brooks Laich really tied the explanation together when he explained what made it so special to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan in a great retrospective of its 10-year anniversary in 2016:

” … This had so many facets: cutting across the ice, pulling the puck in tight, getting hit by a defender, rolling away from the net and facing away from the net and then hooking your arm around and getting it on the puck and directing it into the net,” Laich said. “There were so many variables in that goal that you really had to watch it so many times to really understand how special it was.”

What it meant to Ovechkin

“The goal” came at a powerful time for Ovechkin during a rookie season where he’d ultimately beat out Sidney Crosby for the 2005-06 Calder Trophy.

Ovechkin managed his first hat trick during the game before “the goal,” scoring three against the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Jan. 13, 2006. Managing a goal like that against the Coyotes, and doing so in front of Gretzky, had to feel like a “you made it” moment for Ovechkin as a rookie.

“Obviously lucky, but I’ll take it,” Ovechkin said, via the Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno in 2016. “For that moment, it was unbelievable time. My dream was come true: I play in the NHL, I did that kind of special goal and Gretzky was there, as well.”

It’s tough to argue with former Capitals GM George McPhee’s assessment of Ovechkin: that he’s just that hungry to score goals.

“He never gave up on that,” McPhee said. “That’s why he’s a great goal-scorer: He just has a phenomenal shot, but it’s the desire to score. He’s always been so hungry to score.”

Zooming out

You might compare Ovechkin’s unthinkable goal to Odell Beckham Jr.’s seemingly impossible one-handed catch from November 2014. Both were superb physical talents doing impossible things, even as rookies, providing highlights that became downright iconic. Each player also can’t claim that the specific highlight reel moment was that important, as neither player’s team made the playoffs that year, and Beckham Jr.’s Giants even lost that game.

In considering Ovechkin’s goal, something emerged from my heart — or maybe my subconscious — for me, and maybe other hockey fans of a certain age, the early days of Ovechkin – Crosby had parallels to Sammy Sosa vs. Mark McGwire.

After an ugly MLB strike, the baseball world was captivated by Sosa and McGwire trading homers, and drumming their race quite amicably. The NHL needed its own ray of sunshine after the abominable full-season lockout of 2004-05, and it got some help from a bucket of goals (plus, not coincidentally, more penalties), but also the promise of two budding young superstars in Crosby and Ovechkin. Some grumbled at all the attention they received. Yet, in retrospect, those grumblings should have been silenced by that absolutely ridiculous sprawling goal.

That it happened in what was essentially garbage time made it powerful in its own way: if you miss a game, you might miss Ovechkin or some other superstar pulling off something mind-blowing.

The Ovechkin goal didn’t “save hockey,” nor did the Crosby – Ovechkin rivalry, or even any series or team.

That goal was a big part of soothing my hockey soul, as was that thrilling, and wild season. Although, come to think of it … maybe my jaw pops because of all the times it hit the floor while I stopped, paused, and rewound that astonishing video.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL
McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hey, Brooks Laich and actress Julianne Hough got engaged

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Actress/dancer/famous person Julianne Hough and Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich announced that they got engaged on Aug. 18.

source:

Their caption reads:

We are overwhelmed with joy and excitement to share with you our recent engagement! #fiancé #love

Hough is the champion of the couple at the moment, as she’s part of two winning teams on “Dancing with the Stars.” She apparently was dating Ryan Seacrest before meeting Laich, according to Fox 411.

Sorry everyone, but you won’t get a better photo of Hough’s engagement ring, as you’ll instead need to settle for this description via People Magazine:

“The ring is over five carats and oval-shaped,” a source tells PEOPLE. “Brooks called Lorraine because he wanted to find the most perfect diamond that was truly beautiful and shined so bright — just like Julianne. Brooks and Lorraine worked together for months to find a ring that reflected Julianne’s grace and elegance. It’s very clean, very elegant, very beautiful and the diamond is the highest quality. It just shines gorgeous.”

Hough also got a new haircut to celebrate the occasion.

This has been a great summer for Laich, 31, in various ways. He told the Washington Post that he’s excited to work on skills rather than just rehabbing this summer, and now he can also work on wedding plans.

So, let’s throw down the gauntlet: where do Laich – Hough rank among the hockey celebrity couples?

Important stuff.

(H/T to Eye on Hockey)

Johansson on brink of big raise, but his role with Caps might decline

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Marcus Johansson had his arbitration hearing today and whatever ruling gets handed down by Friday afternoon, it’s likely to be a substantial boost from his 2014-15 salary of roughly $2.2 million, but will he earn his next sum?

That’s open for debate and it doesn’t have as much to do with Johansson as it does with the changing makeup of the Capitals as Chuck Gormley argued for CSN Washington:

With Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky slotted as the Caps’ first- and second-line left wings, and T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams slotted as their first- and second-line right wings, Johansson figures to start the season as a third-line left wing with centers Brooks Laich or Jay Beagle and right wing Tom Wilson.

His power-play time (2:55 per game last season, fourth on the club) could also dip because of the additions of Oshie and Williams.

And yet Johansson did record 20 goals and 47 points last season after finishing with 44 points in his previous campaign, so he could very well get somewhat close to his asking price from the arbitrator. Given that, Gormley wondered if the Capitals might end up walking away from Johansson’s contract. They would have the option of doing so provided that the arbitrator’s assigned salary is more than $3.8 million.

Keep in mind that Washington only has about $5 million worth of cap space to begin with and that’s excluding Justin Peters, who will presumably start the 2014-15 campaign in the minors, so the financial flexibility gained from a walk-away would be noteworthy.

At the same time, ending up with nothing in return for Johansson would be a tough pill to swallow. While a contract in the neighbor of $4 million isn’t ideal for someone playing on the third line, he would still have value to Washington in that role.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Johansson and the Capitals can still agree to terms on their own before the arbitrator’s ruling.

Related: Arbitration looms, but Johansson not worried about future with Caps

Glencross accepts responsibility for Game 5 mistake

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A costly mistake by Curtis Glencross led to Ryan McDonagh’s overtime winner in Game 5 sending the series back to Washington for Game 6 on Sunday night.

Glencross’ cross-ice pass in the neutral zone was picked off by Jesper Fast leading to the game-winner.

“It’s disappointing, obviously,” Glencross said per CSN Washington. “They picked off a hard pass across the ice out of the air and came back and unfortunately they put it in the back of the net.”

Glencross scored his first career playoff goal in the third period to open the scoring. The goal snapped a 19-game drought. The euphoria was short lived however.

McDonagh took a drop pass from Derek Stepan at 9:37 of the extra period and beat a screened Braden Holtby for his second of the playoffs.

“(Brooks Laich) was all alone wide,” Glencross said of his pass attempt. “If I make a pass like that he’s gone in [alone] pretty much.”

Glencross expects his team to take better advantage of opportunities on Sunday at the Verizon Center.

“That’s hockey,” Glencross said. “We didn’t seal it up and when it goes to overtime it’s a game of mistakes and they got one. We’ll be good next game and we want to finish it off in six. We’ll have short-term memory, come back on Sunday and take the series.”

Now the Isles are upset at Brooks Laich, too

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Things have reached a fever pitch in the Isles-Capitals series.

In the wake of Tom Wilson’s huge Game 4 hit on Lubomir Visnovsky — one that knocked New York’s veteran d-man out of action — the Isles expressed major frustration, with Kyle Okposo calling Wilson “an idiot.”

Now, they’re apparently upset with another Caps forward as well.

From Newsday:

The Isles, already upset over losing Visnovsky, were further incensed when audio of Caps forward Brooks Laich’s radio appearance on a Washington station surfaced on social media.

The NHL’s Player Safety department was informed of Laich’s comments, though such things usually warrant only a talking-to, not a fine or suspension. Wilson did not hear from player safety regarding the hit, so he will be in the lineup for Game 5.

In the interview, Laich said “What [the hit] did was Visnovsky got put out of the game and that puts them down to five ‘D’ in the second period.” Laich then added, “it’s a quote-unquote good penalty to take.”

Game 5 of the series goes tonight at Verizon. Needless to say, it’s going to be heated.