Capitals' Ovechkin Is Quick Off the Mark

Since scoring twice on opening night, Alex Ovechkin has been on a tear with 10 points.
Since scoring twice on opening night, Alex Ovechkin has been on a tear with 10 points. "I can score more," he said. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 22, 2005

Alex Ovechkin's mornings used to begin with a cup of hot tea and a ham and egg sandwich prepared by his mother. But that changed Monday when Ovechkin's parents, Tatiana and Mikhail, returned to Russia after a month-long stay in Washington to help their 20-year-old son get accustomed to life in a foreign land.

"When I wake up now, I don't have breakfast," Ovechkin joked yesterday. "I try to make something, but it's no good.

"I just go to Starbucks and eat chocolate."

Fortunately for the Capitals, Ovechkin's first few weeks in the NHL have gone smoother than the first few days of cooking for himself.

It's probably too early to begin handicapping the Calder Trophy race, which no Capital has ever won. But the rookie of the year award shouldn't be handed to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby just yet -- especially if Ovechkin continues to score at, or even near, his current pace.

After eight games, Ovechkin has six goals (tied for third entering last night's contests) and 38 shots (also third). The left wing also led all rookies in points (10), goals and shots, despite regularly drawing the attention of the opposing team's top defensemen and checking forwards.

"I want to win the rookie award," Ovechkin said. "Crosby and [Buffalo's Thomas] Vanek are good players. We have the same chances. We must prove who is the best. I don't know who is best. But I try to be best."

He's trying awfully hard, as evidenced by his two-goal performance in the Capitals' 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Ovechkin scored less than two minutes into the game to put the Capitals ahead, but a disastrous second period left them trailing, 3-1, after the Panthers took 28 shots -- a team record -- to Washington's six.

Although the game appeared out of the Capitals' reach in the final minutes, Ovechkin made things interesting by skating three-quarters of the rink, weaving his way through nearly the entire Panthers team and eventually beating star goalie Roberto Luongo with a wrist shot to make the score 3-2. Too little, too late? Perhaps. But to those who watch him on a daily basis, teammates included, it was a reminder of Ovechkin's rare ability to single-handedly change a game, and his intense desire to win.

"There are lots of expectations for him," said right wing Brian Willsie, his linemate and roommate on the road. "And he's living up to them."

Coach Glen Hanlon said: "We don't expect him to go end to end. We expect him to play within the parameters of our offense. [But] from the redline to the goal line, guys like Alexander have the green light to do whatever they want, with the exception of turning the puck over."

With every highlight-reel goal, the spotlight shifts from Crosby, the 2005 No. 1 overall pick, to Ovechkin, the first choice in 2004. Newspapers across North America are printing stories about him, and cable sports networks are replaying his spectacular scores.

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