Maple Leafs disrupt Alex Ovechkin’s search for history as Wayne Gretzky looks on

Near the end of the first half at Scotiabank Arena, Wayne Gretzky made a surprise appearance in the NBC broadcast booth, then made a surprising disclosure to capitals Fans watching at home: “I don’t go to a lot of games.”

Why squeeze in late in Toronto, then?

He said, “God, you should go see Ovie, right?”

Alexander Ovechkin became a focus around hockey – and Change hockey – the world this season, as he continues his pursuit of Gretzky’s all-time NHL scoring record. In the United States, ESPN is preparing to Featured interview broadcast during the All-Star weekend, with Ovechkin in attendance.

Gretzky “He deserves all the recognition and accolades he’s received.” Washington Radio Sunday. “I couldn’t be happier to be around a guy who has a chance to break my record. It’s not going to change my life. It’s going to be positive for NHL. “

It should be noted that more goals of Ovechkin would not be warmly accepted by the other team on the ice below. the maple leaves The D.C. conceded a power play goal, but did not allow Ovechkin to score, en route to a 5-1 home victory. Ovechkin scored 812 career goals, which is second on the all-time goals list behind Gretzky’s 894.

“He’s a great player,” said Leafs’ penalty-scoring forward Alex Kerfoot. “What he’s done in this game is incredibly special. You know that at all times. But we’re not trying to change the mindset too much — there are other guys who are dangerous shooters.”

In planning to tackle Ovechkin while he was short-handed, Kerfoot described a paradox: Defenders can’t be distracted by the fact that the second-leading scorer in NHL history is on the ice, but they can’t get it out of their minds.

“I think teams have tried different things over the years,” he said, pausing with a smile. “Obviously, not to much success.”

With the Leafs, he said a lot of the pressure is on the defenseman on the weak side. With the Capitals moving the puck around the offensive zone, Kerfoot said the defenseman is on that side – sometimes TJ Brodysometimes Justin Hall – You are forced to race (or “flex”) to where Ovechkin is standing.

“With a guy like Ovie, I think you want to roll really fast, to try and deter him from shooting him, so you don’t have to eat one of those,” Kerfoot said.

“She’s almost trying to read a play or two before what’s going on at the time,” Brodie said. “And sometimes, it’s not even about blocking the shot. It’s about taking a certain area of ​​the net away to give the goalkeeper a chance to know that if he’s going to hit us, he’s going to go to one side of the net.”

He added that Ovechkin is also skilled at faking the shot and passing it to his teammate by knocking on the back door of the net. The team saw a film of Ovechkin before the game on Sunday, Brody said, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of clear answers about how to prevent him.

A video of Ovechkin intended for public consumption also circulated this month. It’s a clip from his power play goal against him Pittsburghand the 37-year-old is shown moving with the urgency of a Nightly Beer League Player of the Week, standing almost entirely inside the showdown circuit.

Once the disk arrived, it was in the back of the net.

“Like everyone else, you’re focused on where he’s at, but you’re aware of what’s going on with the puck,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “Because it is very important to kill the play before they have a chance to get it.”

Ovechkin finished with a career-high six shots, but scored no points. (Niklas Backstrom Scored a power play goal for Washington, M.N Marcus Johansson And Connor Cherrylate in the first period.)

“He’s the best scorer in the league right now,” said the Leafs goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov, who made 23 saves in the win. “It’s really difficult to play against him. But we’re doing a great job. The defensemen block shots. He doesn’t have much time.”

In Toronto, Ovechkin also faced criticism related to the war in Ukraine. On Saturday, the Toronto newspaper published a newspaper Opinion Article notes that the crowd at Scotiabank Arena should have booed him “with every touch of the puck” for his support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In December, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress wrote a letter To Melanie Jolie, Secretary of State, asking the federal government to deny Ovechkin entry to Canada for his “continued support of Putin and the Russian regime”.

Ovechkin will be away south of the Canadian border next month, when he’s scheduled to appear at the NHL’s All-Star festivities in Sunrise, Florida. It will be his eighth appearance in the game, and it will happen It said Be the first to play in front of his two young sons.

The Leafs will never have to see him again during the regular season.

“He’s clearly a guy you want off the scoring list,” Brody said. “And when you can, it’s nice, because it doesn’t happen often.”


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(Photo: Nick Torciaro/USA Today)

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