Alex Ovechkin recorded his 10th goals in the first period of Washington’s 4-1 win over Edmonton on Thursday night to become the first player in the NHL to reach double-digits in goals.
This latest tally came on a play that has become a familiar and quite often a successful option for the star winger: rifling a shot off a faceoff win by a linemate into the back of the net before the opposition can even process what’s happening.
The opportunity presented itself against the Oilers on an icing faceoff when Nicklas Backstrom won a draw. Marcus Johansson gained possession and tapped it back to Ovechkin, who sent a wicked shot past goaltender Devan Dubnyk. It was the second consecutive goal Ovechkin scored off a faceoff as he scored on a similar play against Winnipeg on Tuesday.
“I’m talking to Backy and Jojo about it all the time, what different situations can be. We have a couple different options there,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes I can go to the middle because two guys jump on me, so I can go to the middle and pass them and I’m going to be wide open. It’s working and it’s good.”
What makes it such an effective threat is because, if executed quickly, the team that lost the draw is handcuffed with precious little time to do anything that might prevent the shot from being on goal. It’s a perfect chance to take advantage of Ovechkin’s rapid shot release.
“He’s a goal scorer. They’re kind of broken plays and before you know it, the release is tough on goalies,” Oates said. “It’s a hard play, it’s a hard play when it’s against us.”
In catching up with former Capital Boyd Gordon after the skate Thursday morning, the topic of handling that type of chance from Ovechkin off the faceoff came up. Gordon, familiar as anyone with Ovechkin’s ability to get a shot off before there’s time to adjust, acknowledged once the draw is lost there advantage is squarely on the side of the team that gained possession.
“The guy on the inside pretty much just has to eat it. I don’t want to lose it clean, that’s the biggest thing,” Gordon said. “Worst case lose it a couple feet back and now that guy’s shooting right through. One guy’s just got to block the shot. It’s a tough play to defend against.”