There is never an ideal time to face Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin — but it’s probably especially bad timing when he’s coming off two straight games without registering a shot.
That’s something that, until now, had never happened for the NHL’s all-time shots-on-goal leader, now in his 19th season.
“He’s always dangerous to me,” said Canadiens’ goaltender Jake Allen, expected to start Saturday night (7 p.m., City-TV, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM), when Montreal concludes its three-game homestand against Washington at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens (1-1-1) are coming off a 5-2 thumping by Minnesota last Tuesday, one night before the Caps (1-2-0) were drubbed 6-1 in Ottawa.
“I think (Ovechkin’s lack of shots) is probably what has been talked about lately, but he’s always dangerous,” Allen continued. “It doesn’t matter if he has one shot or 10 in the game. That (one shot) is all he needs. We’re going to have to be on our toes.”
Ovechkin, 38, has recorded 6,359 shots in 1,350 regular-season games. In only 19 of those contests has he failed to record a shot, and he has proven deadly accurate over his legendary career, with 822 goals and 1,486 points. Ovechkin has faced the Canadiens 55 times, scoring 37 goals while directing 242 shots at Montreal netminders.
He might be off to a slow start this season, producing his first point — an assist — against the Senators, but it’s probably only a matter of time before he breaks loose. He has been the NHL’s goal-scoring leader nine times in his career; an eight-time first-team all-star.
Ovechkin’s shot is based on power and speed, according to Allen.
“He’s got all the combinations,” he explained. “It curves, it dips, it dives. There’s a lot of things that a lot of guys can’t do. I think it obviously is a testament to how big of a man he is; how strong he is. A lot of times his pucks will move on the fly. It’s not a straight shot. You have to be in the right position. It’s not reactionary. It’s more positional based. He’s the best goal-scorer of all time for a reason.”
Allen, 33, hasn’t played since the Canadiens’ opening-game 6-5 shootout loss at Toronto, Oct. 11, having ceded the net in favour of Samuel Montembeault against Chicago and the Wild. Management undoubtedly hopes one of the two seizes control of the position, and both figure to be busier next week, when the team plays four games in six days. To compound matters, the Canadiens’ roster includes a third netminder, Cayden Primeau, who would have to clear waivers before being assigned to the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
“Since we found out during camp this was going to be the situation, you have to accept it and embrace it,” Allen explained. “We’re all here to try and put the best foot forward for this group and team. We’re finding the right ways to be efficient about it. Obviously with three guys, during practice times, you have to find ways to stay on top of it.”
Much of Friday morning’s practice was devoted to the team’s struggling power play, which has produced only one goal. Not only did the Canadiens fail to convert five manpower advantages against Minnesota, the team surrendered two short-handed goals within 26 seconds in the opening period.
“Nobody’s frustrated, although we’re not seeing results,” said Cole Caufield, who plays on the team’s first power-play unit. “It’s going to come with practice. We’re three games in and we’re 1-1-1. I don’t think we need to be freaking out just yet.”
Montreal also has a league-high 85 penalty minutes, a trend that head coach Martin St. Louis admitted on Thursday must be rectified.
“We’ve just got to stay out of the box,” Caufield said. “We’re a pretty good team five-on-five. We’re focused on taking less penalties and keeping the game five-on-five.”
Meanwhile, forward Christian Dvorak, yet to play this season due to a knee injury, practised Friday without his no-contact jersey. Dvorak, who hasn’t played since March 7, isn’t eligible to return until early November, against St. Louis. Defenceman Kaiden Guhle (wrist), skated on his own for approximately 20 minutes.
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