The race for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy is heating back up. On Saturday, Patrik Laine tied Alex Ovechkin for a league-leading 40 goals. For Laine, 22 of those goals have come in 2018 alone. In his last five games he has tallied nine goals, including his fourth career hat trick, making him just the third player to do so before turning 20.
That impressive run landed Laine the NHL’s first star for the week of March 5-11, 2018, and there is little indication that the Winnipeg Jet forward will be slowing down any time soon. With the Caps and Jets clashing Monday night, Ovechkin vs. Laine has been the story of the hour.
Alex Ovechkin has a league-leading 40 goals. Patrik Laine has just as many. Both players have 14 games left to lay claim to the Rocket Richard Trophy. They meet tonight on @NBCSWashington. #CapsJets pic.twitter.com/eNLXLvrhIP
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) March 12, 2018
Both Laine and Ovechkin spoke to the media ahead of their showdown on Monday evening.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 12, 2018
Ovechkin had nothing but respect for Laine, and what he has accomplished his season. “Obviously, his shot is pretty amazing,” Ovechkin said. “Tonight we have to stay close to him and don’t give him any chance.”
With Laine streaking, the media wanted to know whether he reminded the Great 8 of a younger Ovi? “Well, I’m still young,” Ovechkin countered. “I shaved.”
In comparison to Laine’s recent scoring streak, Ovechkin has stalled over his last three games. His last goal came against the Toronto Maple Leafs outdoors on March 3.
“If you’re close to top three or top five, of course you pay attention,” the Capitals Captain said of keeping tabs on the race. “I don’t believe if somebody said ‘I don’t care about the stats’ and all this kind of stuff. Of course they want points, they want goals. It’s a normal thing, especially if you’re a forward.”
Getting another Rocket would bring Ovechkin’s total to seven, but notching another personal accolade isn’t the most important thing to him right now. “It would be really cool, obviously, to get another one,” Ovechkin admitted. “But right now, […] you have to score goals to help the team to win, not just for scoring goals. When you score goals you get more chances to win.”
Monday marks the second time the Capitals and Jets will face off this season. After an article in the Player’s Tribune, Laine had – allegedly – admitted to wanting to play video games against his idol. “Last time we played I tell him, ‘I heard you want me to play with you X-Box,’ or video games,” Ovechkin said, of their back-and-forth on the ice. “Sergey did a bad job, so he didn’t set us up. It’s all his fault.”
If the stars align to allow a video game showdown, and Ovechkin comes out the victor, perhaps they can wager Laine’s facial hair.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) March 12, 2018
Playing the Capitals is always something special for Laine. “Washington, they’ve always been my favorite team when I was growing up,” he said to the media, ahead of Monday’s match-up. “It’s always been my dream to play against them.”
The media in attendace, of course, brought up Ovechkin’s comments about his Rocket rival. “It sounds pretty good to me, that he’s saying nice things about me,” Laine admitted. “He’s been my biggest idol when I was growing up. So it’s pretty unreal to hear something like that, about him talking about me.”
Ovechkin closing in on, potentially, his seventh Rocket wouldn’t be the only milestone he would hit this season. He also sits just two goals away from 600.
“That’s pretty amazing to reach that,” Laine said. “Hopefully he’s not getting the two goals tonight. 600 goals in under 1000 games, it’s pretty unreal. Hopefully he’s getting it. Maybe the next game, but not tonight.”
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