Alex Ovechkin’s relationship with Maria Kirilenko has frequently been explored in the nooks and crannies of today’s sports journalism world: places like the Style pages, and blogs, and Bogs.

But now, that relationship is the focus of the lead section of a lengthy Sports Illustrated feature.

That Ovechkin-cover-story-that-never-was appears in this week’s issue, and the story begins with a scoring champ in love. Sarah Kwak reports that Ovechkin met his fiancee, Maria Kirilenko, at the 2011 U.S. Open after a preseason NHL press junket, and that he believes their relationship was meant to be. One excerpt:

“Destiny,” he said last week through his signature gap-toothed smile at Washington’s practice facility in Arlington, Va. “I believe in destiny.”….

He and Kirilenko exchanged numbers [at that tournament], untroubled by the inconvenience of living thousands of miles and an ocean apart — he in D.C., she in Moscow.

“Our connection was over the phone, over Skype,” Kirilenko said last Thursday in Russian through SI reporter Anastassia Smorodinskaya. “For a long time we didn’t actually see each other, but even with the distance between us, it felt like we had known each other for a long time.”

The long-distance love affair has helped the 27-year old Capitals captain change his old ways. “I don’t think [the relationship] changed my personality, but it’s changed my lifestyle,” he says. “No more crazy stuff like I did in the summers.”

What kind of crazy stuff? “You don’t want to know,” he says with a smile.

Ovechkin later tells Kwak that he doesn’t want to “do something stupid,” because it could jeopardize his relationship. And while George McPhee points to things like a new coach and a new position to explain Ovechkin’s resurgence, some teammates suggest in the story that settling down could help a hockey player: “You get into a routine, and I think [Ovechkin] has that,” Matt Hendricks says.

There’s also a great deal in the story about the relationship between Adam Oates and Ovechkin, and the position change they worked on together. But that’s not quite as sexy of a storyline. So to speak.