Ovechkin makes his mark as a passer

Ovechkin makes his mark as a passer
January 29, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Maybe there is nothing to this at all. Or maybe there is some kind of trend.

Either way, Alex Ovechkin is trying to dispel the theory that he’s all shoot and no pass.

In his last two games, the Capitals’ 28-year-old captain has three goals and three assists, including a brilliant assist on Mike Green’s game-winner Tuesday night in Buffalo.

But before we get into Ovechkin’s big night, here are some numbers to chew on.

In his first six seasons in the NHL, Ovechkin recorded 301 goals and 313 assists, making him just as dangerous as a passer as he was a shooter.

However, in his past three seasons Ovechkin has 108 goals and just 68 assists, a significant drop in helpers.

Is it because Alex Semin is no longer around to finish offensive opportunities? Is it because Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson are too busy feeding Ovechkin that they’ve stopped taking shots? Is it because Ovechkin has simply stopped passing?

RELATED: [Instant analysis: Capitals 5, Sabres 4, OT]

Whatever your theories, Ovechkin shed new light on his serving skills Tuesday night.

Yes, he cranked his 37th and 38th goals of the season past Jhonas Enroth, the first off a right circle faceoff win by Troy Brouwer and the second when he parked himself in front of the net to deflect a Mike Green slapper.

And yes, Ovechkin will always be feared by NHL goalies because of that high-powered shot.

But it was Ovechkin’s long rink-wide pass from the offensive left wing circle to the right goal line to Marty Erat that led to Troy Brouwer’s second-period power play goal. The three-touch passing play was a thing of beauty and it all started off the stick of Ovechkin.

“He still looks to shoot first, but there are times he can make plays, no question,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “I think any time he can make a play like that it can help him score, because it makes teams more aware he can do other things and broaden his horizons 5-on-5.”

Ovechkin’s magic hands were evident again in overtime when he had an open shooting lane from his sweet spot in the left circle but noticed Green cruising into a better shooting position on his right. Ovechkin opened the blade of his stick as if to shoot, forcing Enroth to commit to him, then snapped a pass to Green for the game winner.

"You just want to freeze the goalie," Ovechkin told reporters. "If the goalie wants to play aggressive, you have to wait until he goes and does something. My partner on the other side has to be ready for the pass."

Green has played with Ovechkin since the two entered the NHL together in 2005-06, but even he wasn’t sure if Ovechkin would shoot or pass.

“I knew that either I'd have a rebound and hopefully pop it in, or if Alex heard me that ... he made a great play," Green said. "I know it's tough for him not to shoot the puck, but what an unselfish play that was."

Ovechkin’s four-point night was his second of the season – he had four goals against the Lightning on Dec. 10 – and the 13th of his career. His big night also moved him past Mike Gartner [789] for second place on the Capitals’ all-time points list.

Ovechkin needs 36 more points to pass Peter Bondra [825] for the all-time points title. He needs another 64 goals to pass Bondra for the all-time goals title [472].

And while we’re at it, there are only two players in Capitals history who have more assists than Ovechkin’s 381. Ovechkin is 11 assists away from matching Gartner [392] and 37 assists away from catching Michal Pivonka [418].

Maybe then Ovechkin will be recognized as one of the NHL’s greatest passers. Or not.