Former Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz met with the media Monday morning following the Islanders morning skate at Capital One Arena. Trotz was asked about his former captain, Alex Ovechkin, who is heading into Monday’s game against Trotz and the Islanders just two goals away from the 700th of his NHL career.
“If I was a betting man, I would bet on [Ovechkin] breaking [Wayne Gretzky’s] goal-scoring record. In my mind, there’s no doubt he’s going to do it,” Trotz told the AP’s Stephen Whyno after the Islanders’ morning skate. The 34-year old is currently 196 goals behind Gretzky’s NHL-record 894.
Barry Trotz reiterates he thinks Alex Ovechkin is the greatest goal-scorer of all-time: pic.twitter.com/pynLZwGMBQ
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) February 10, 2020
Trotz said that he hopes Ovechkin saves his 700th goal for after Monday night’s game. “He’s going to get them,” Trotz told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. “Obviously, I’ve seen him get 500 and 600 [goals]. Hopefully, I have to watch it on TV for 700. But he’s going to get it and he’s going to get it against someone.”
After Ovechkin’s goal total declined from 50 in 2015-16 to 33 in 2016-17 and the Capitals lost two top-six forwards in Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson over the offseason, Trotz and GM Brian MacLellan both stressed that Ovechkin would have to change his game as he was nearing age 32 at the time. Trotz visited him at his home in Russia during the 2017 offseason to discuss needing to change as the league was becoming more dependent on speed and skill, rather than size. Ovechkin’s training that summer focused more on speed than getting bigger.
Ovechkin responded to Trotz and MacLellan’s messages with back-to-back hat-tricks in the first two games of the season and finished the 2017-18 season with a 49-goal output. He also led the NHL in scoring with 15 goals during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Trotz said he has seen a lot of growth out of the 34-year old Capitals’ captain and that he has had an impact on a lot of young hockey players. “For a lot of years, there was doubters on [Ovechkin] and [he] has risen above that. He’s matured. He’s a Stanley Cup champion. When I was here, we talked about how he’s inspired people. He’s inspired young guys that tie their laces and let it hang or wearing the yellow laces in the skates and they’re tucking the shirt in and they’re using his (stick) pattern. … He’s inspired so many young players and he continues to do that.”
In four seasons (324 games) under Trotz, Ovechkin posted 183 goals, 308 points, and a +40 rating. Before Trotz was hired as the Capitals head coach in 2014, Ovechkin was coming off of a season where he had a career-worst and an NHL-low -35 rating.
Ovechkin recorded a hat-trick in the Capitals’ 6-4 victory over the Islanders on January 18, the last time the two teams met.
Ovechkin, who has posted 14 goals and 15 points in his previous seven games and leads the NHL with 40 goals this season, also bought into playing away from the puck during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run and the team obviously reaped the rewards. That was a knock on him for years before the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Trotz thought that Ovechkin, who he said has turned into one of the Capitals’ and the NHL’s most important players, has improved as a two-way player and buying into the team system. “I think (it’s) his acceptance of the importance of all the other stuff, not just the goal-scoring, but the other stuff that goes with it. Some systematic stuff, but just the game itself and leadership and all that. I think he really grew in that area and he’s matured as a young man,” he said.
Trotz said that he and the Islanders will treat Monday’s game at Capital One Arena “as just winning a hockey game.”
By Harrison Brown