The Buffalo Sabres are floundering — star forward Jack Eichel is out — and they have won only 6 of 26 games this season. Their 16 standings points are the worst in the NHL.
While the team isn’t winning, they are learning how to be better. Monday, after the team’s morning skate, Ralph Krueger pointed to Alex Ovechkin as an example “any young player” should follow.
Krueger gave props to Ovechkin’s physicality and his hustle in both the offensive and defensive zones. His answer turned out to be one of the kindest and most articulate tributes Ovechkin has received as a player since joining the NHL.
“I’ve been coaching against him internationally for decades and now here in the National Hockey League and what you just mentioned is important and why he is always able to stay ready for those opportunities,” Krueger said. “It’s because of the physicality he brings into the rest of the game, looking for that extra contact.
“His tracking, hunger, and the speed he brings back to his own net is an example for any young player because when you’re not scoring, you’re making other things happen, and that’s Ovechkin.
“And then when his chance comes, and they always come here and there, he is aggressive on those chances as if it’s his last opportunity every time. What an example of finishing.
“Not only does he have the skill, but he has the grit that goes with it all the time. We can learn from that, for sure, and we do work with our younger players on examples of his type.”
Krueger went on to say that Ovechkin remains such a devastatingly good player because no one can stop him from the left circle.
“It’s as simple as his sweet spot on the power play,” Kreuger said. “All of us, every coaching staff knows about it, and yet he keeps scoring from there. The reason is the teammates and the line mates that he has and how they consume you. Backstrom’s ability to hold onto the puck, able to draw more than one opponent on him, and give Ovi time to find those holes.”
And then, in the blink of an eye, it’s in the back of the net.
Ovechkin, who currently sits in seventh in goals all-time, could tie Phil Esposito (717 goals) for sixth all-time if he scores against Buffalo tonight.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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