ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin certainly has a lot of helpers.

The Russian star has risen to number two on the NHL’s career goals list, and a supporting cast of teammates are eager to help him rewrite the history books.

Only Wayne Gretzky with 894 has more goals than Ovechkin’s 810. Establishing the best goalscorer of this generation, and perhaps one day becoming hockey’s best player, is an art. It’s crafted and perfected during Ovechkin’s 18-year career in North America by a list of Washington Capitals cohorts.

“He definitely wants the puck in certain areas of the ice,” said Tom Wilson, who has assisted Ovechkin’s 39 regular-season goals for nearly a decade together. “You kind of understand when and where he wants it. As you play more games, just go with the flow, get used to it, build that chemistry, feel it. .”

Whether or not you get the feel of Ovechkin depends a lot on the situation. A total of seven players mean he had 365 primary assists (and overall he had 698) on his goals.

Finding Ovechkin in his familiar spot in the left faceoff circle on a power play, steaming the puck onto the ice, or placing it on a stick blade in the offensive zone were his most common scoring. part of the scenario. I need paths that vary in speed and location.

John Carlson, who succeeded Mike Green (70 assists, 48 ​​primary goals in Ovechkin’s goals from 2005-2015) as point man for Washington’s top power play unit, put it at this stage. It’s almost down to science. Sometimes I have to help him beat the goalie. You can also combine them. “

What does that combination take to set up his trademark one-off Ovechkin? It does more than catch the eye of opposing goalkeepers and defenders.

“The hardest thing is trying to miss the other team, not making a 20-foot pass. Trying to set up the other team. Look at the opponent and see where the puck is coming from. Because you’re looking at ,” Carlson said. That his 92 primary assists and 142 total Ovechkin goals are second only to longtime center Niklas his Backstrom. “For him, and his accuracy, would probably make a big difference. Maybe the goalie would stop him from getting there three inches, four inches. Clearly there was a difference.”

Apparently, Ovechkin has scored a league-record 294 power-play goals, many of them in the faceoff circle that became his office, as the area behind the net was known as Gretzky’s area. It’s from

Backstrom has scored over 500 goals since making his NHL debut in 2007 and moving to a familiar spot as Ovechkin’s center. They currently play over 1,000 games together.

Backstrom’s favorite assist: When Ovechkin enters the offensive zone at speed and can deliver a drop pass.

“I look for his hind legs all the time,” he said.

Most players usually want to attach the puck to the tape on the stick, close to the tip of the blade. Now wielding a stick with his one of Ovechkin’s old blades, winger TJ Osier, who has assisted 42 goals since being traded to Washington in 2015, has plenty of curve and He said he wanted to move the puck to the rear.

“He covers it and lets the blade almost slingshot,” Carlson said. “His (curve) is more pronounced thanks to the unevenness of his stick. I’m in

Other teammates scoff at the notion of a perfect pass to Ovechkin. “Whatever is on the tape,” said center Evgeny Kuznetsov, laughing. “I don’t know,” said defenseman Dmitry Orlov (34 assists). “When he’s open, perhaps?”

They agreed that the most important factor in feeding Ovechkin was to make sure the puck wasn’t bouncing or straining by the time it reached him.

Kuznetsov, who had 66 main goals and 105 total assists in Ovechkin’s goals, said: “As long as it’s flat and taped, he doesn’t have to think about how to handle it all and plays right away. “As long as it’s flat and in his place, he’ll be fine.”

Ultimately, the more people who skate with Ovechkin, the more instinctive it becomes. His teammates know where he is on the ice, and that chemistry will grow over time, Wilson said.

“It’s not bad to play with him for a while and see what he’s doing,” said Marcus Johansson, who assisted Ovechkin’s 58 goals in two separate stints with the Capitals. “If you can get anywhere in the area where he can shoot, it always feels like a scoring opportunity. can get the job done.”

The rest of the work belongs to Ovechkin, whose shots have been studied for decades by hockey historians about enemy defenses and how he upset the 167 different goalkeepers he scored. No one has scored a puck like Ovechkin, who recently broke Ray Bourque’s record that has stood since 2001.

Knowing Ovechkin’s odds of getting the puck off the stick into the net is more reason than teammates handing it to him and seeing his assist total skyrocket while he chases Gretzky .

“It’s great to have players who can make every shot and are always dangerous,” Orlov said. “He’s got a shot from the gods and he’s using it.”


Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno.


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