The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show.
On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch.
Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016.
Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year.
“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post.
MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year
Alex Ovechkin is one of the most prolific shooters in NHL history.
This season, the Caps’ captain ranks third in shots on net with 223, an average of almost 3.7 per contest.
But on Saturday evening in Nashville, something strange happened—again.
Ovechkin finished without a shot on goal for the third time in the last seven games. He did score a goal in the third period, but it was overturned because he was offside by a smidge. Thus, no shot.
In all, Ovechkin attempted six shots in 20:36 of ice time in the 5-2 loss. Two of those attempts were blocked and four more were off target.
“Obviously he’s a shooter; he’s got to get pucks to the net,” Coach Barry Trotz told reporters in Nashville. “He’s a little off, a little bit off. Players will go through that.”
Prior to going shot-less against the Red Wings on Feb. 9, Ovechkin had recorded at least one shot on goal in 315 consecutive games, a stretch that dates back to March 2013. Ovechkin’s shot-on-goal streak wound up 45 games short of matching Ray Bourque’s NHL record of 360 straight games with at last one shot on net.
In 900 career games, Ovechkin has failed to register a shot on goal only nine times.
So, yeah, it’s worth noting when he doesn’t get one. It's more notable when it happens three times in a couple of weeks.
Trotz, though, said he isn’t overly concerned about it.
“Ovi’s pretty streaky if you look in his past,” Trotz said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he got 10 goals in the next five games. That’s how he operates.”
He added: “Sometimes he’ll go a little bit flat there. He’s going through of a little of a dry spell, I think.”
Saturday’s game was a rough one for Ovi all around. In addition to losing a goal to video replay, he also took a couple of minor penalties—one for hooking and another for holding.
MORE CAPITALS: Tom Wilson takes skate to back of the head