Photo courtesy WashingtonCapitals.com
Kovy and Ovie, no sight of Geno :-(
Great job by Nate Ewell, here are the excerpts from his 2008 All-Star Weekend Blog:
A few things we know, though, after this morning’s practice and media availability. Alex will have a chance to redeem himself after a how’d-that-happen? performance in last year’s fastest skater competition. He’ll skate in tomorrow night’s game alongside Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And he occupies an interesting spot in the Eastern Conference locker room.
To Ovechkin’s left is fellow Russian Ilya Kovalchuk, who can certainly show Ovie around the room here in Atlanta. To the right is Philadelphia’s Mike Richards – a player who Ovechkin faced in the World Junior Championship, fought in a preseason game this year and followed in signing a long, long-term contract this season (Richards’ deal is 12 years).
As I said in my previous post, I can bet that Ovechkin will win the Fastest Skater event. He has the fastest acceleration in NHL, and the changes in the Fastest Skater rules will benefit him the most. Before this year that event was more like a power skating competition.
Update from Nate: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008 - 2 p.m.
Part of it is certainly Sidney Crosby's absence, part of it is his improving command of the English language, and part of it is his Hart Trophy-worthy season, but Alex Ovechkin was easily the star of the show at this morning's media availability.
So much so, in fact, that Alex missed the Eastern Conference team bus back to the hotel. an NHL courtesy car was good enough to give him a ride.
While at the arena he spoke at length with CBC, NHL.com, NHL Radio, TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, Comcast SportsNet, print and electronic media members, Russian reporters and more.
This is sort of the NHL's answer to Super Bowl media day, so there are some off-the-wall outlets as well. They especially enjoy Alex's sense of humor and excitement to be here.
Alex gave the (fairly attractive) MTV reporter a big hug.
The Score, from Canada, sends an off-beat reporter who asked Alex if he hit the town last night. "No, waiting for you," Alex said. "Tonight, you and me, but the cameras can't come."
Update from Nate, Jan. 27, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008 - Noon
Alex and Nicklas were up early this morning for another round of photo shoots and interviews, plus one particularly interesting stop.
Both players posed for Macfarlane Toys, which scanned their faces for future collectibles. Todd Macfarlane, the owner (as well as renowned purchaser of Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball), was on hand himself to direct the players, explain the process and snap photos. As the players' faces were scanned, a virtual image appeared on a laptop connected to the scanner.
Both Alex and Nicklas did a series of poses - no expression, determined and smiling. The last might have been the most fun: act as if you've just been handed the Stanley Cup. Caps fans can look forward to those toys coming out someday.
Alyssa Milano's NHL Blog:
So while I’m here, I’m actually looking forward to a few things in particular; the fastest skater, for sure. And of course, the breakaway competition.
...hmmm Ovechkin is in both... :-)
Update from LetsGoKings.com, Jan. 26, YoungStars Transcript - Nicklas Backstrom
Q.: One guy we haven't talked about here that I know has been great through your development as well is Alexander Ovechkin. He's really turned into a team leader. What has he helped you with? You guys are inseparable with the Washington Capitals.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: Yeah, I mean we're the same age. He'll help me a lot. We are friends and we're talking a lot. I mean, he was in the same situation a few years ago, but he was a little bit better. I mean, he's good, and he's helped me a lot. Talking a lot about his first year and asking him. He's a good help for me.
Q.: Can we assume when you guys go out to dinner on a week night, that Alexander Ovechkin, he's the guy that's buying. He's not making you buy anymore, is he?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I don't know, actually. But I hope he's going to pay.
Q.: You got to make sure he's buying you filet mignon or something. Well, best of luck, nick. Enjoy the weekend. It's going to be a lot of fun. Right now you guys are battling for the Southeast Division lead. And perhaps you might find yourselves back in the playoffs there. So best of luck with the Washington Capitals.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Update from thrashersprospectsannex.blogspot.com, Jan. 26:
Best dressed would have to go to Ovechkin, in a silvery suit, Dolce & Gabbana belt and patent-leather pointy dress shoes. It was a lot of look for morning, but a little hair gel and he's ready for the red carpet.
Well, the last minute sudden change... At the red carpet they asked Ovie in what events he'd participate and he said, "Hardest shot... maybe breakaway... I don't know, they might change it at the last minute"...
Too bad, I was hoping for him to be in a fastest skater. :-(
From NHL.COM, Jan. 26
ATLANTA (AP) -Alex Ovechkin won the breakaway challenge in the NHL's SuperSkills competition Saturday night, leading the Eastern Conference to a 9-6 victory over the West in the preview to the All-Star game.
Ovechkin's artistry was rewarded by a panel of judges who rewarded creativity over scoring shots.
Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk went to his knees for a sliding attempt. Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf went behind the net before shooting. Washington's Ovechkin bounced the puck off his stick before whiffing on a baseball swing but still earned 32 points.
For his second try, Ovechkin scooped the puck off the ice, flipped it into the air, spun on the ice and took another baseball swing - again missing but again drawing big points from the celebrity panel of former Thrashers captain Scott Mellanby, NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks, actor Taylor Kitsch and broadcaster Bill Clement.
From Detroit Free Press, Jan. 26:
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was the highlight of Saturday’s SuperSkills competition at Philips Arena, getting into the breakaway challenge with baseball-swing goals, taken against Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood.
Ovechkin won the challenge by earning 60 points from a four-man panel of judges – and impressed Osgood.
As he approached the net Ovechkin flipped the puck onto his stick, bounced it, and then attempted to knock it out of mid-air. He didn’t get any goals, but that hardly mattered.
“He was going for style points and he had some great moves,” Osgood said. “I said I wasn’t going to come out and poke-check him or anything that wouldn’t allow him to do it. I wasn’t trying to take away his speed or anything. I was just going to try if he shoots it on net to stop it. I was going to let him do whatever else he wanted to do.
“It almost has to be choreographed with the goalies. I think that’s what they’re going to have to do next year.”
From Washington Times, By Corey Masisak, Jan. 26:
During the one drill I saw that looked like it had established lines, Alex Ovechkin was skating with Jason Spezza and Martin St. Louis. I hope John Paddock puts his five Russians (Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Markov and Gonchar) out there together at least once.
There was some question about what events Alex Ovechkin would take part in during the SuperSkills competition. He will do the NBA dunk contest-style breakaway challenge and the hardest shot contest. He will not be doing the fastest skater contest like last year.
Ovechkin joked the other day his big move in the breakaway contest would be a slapshot from the blueline.
From Washington Times by Corey Masisak, Jan. 27:
"Me and [Kovalchuk] decide what we have to do in the shootout," Ovechkin said. "I tell him to go to his knees. He told me to do like first time only with 360 [degree spin]. Third time he tells me go to the knee, bounce puck the same, turn around and shoot. I was just, 'No. That's too hard to do.' "
Ovechkin also participated in the hardest shot contest. Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara won the competition with a shot at 103.1 miles an hour, which tied Washington's Al Iafrate's 1994 blast for the second-hardest of all time. Iafrate holds the record at 105.2 mph, which he set the year before in Montreal.
Ovechkin's attempts registered at 98.3 and 95.6 on the radar gun, and his top shot placed him fifth.
Thanks to OnFrozenBlog
From Dallas Stars, Jan. 27:
Ovechkin, the Washington winger, won the newest style points shootout event by lifting the puck on his stick, flipping it in the air a few times like Tiger Woods does with a golf ball, and then attempted to spin around and bat the puck into the goal. He missed. But it didn’t matter for entertainment value.
"I can lift the puck in the air, but I don’t think I could do it in front of so many people," Ribeiro laughed.
From Washington Post, Jan. 27:
Ovechkin became the first player in franchise history to record two goals in the game, helping the Eastern Conference to a back-and-forth 8-7 victory that was decided on a goal by Boston Bruins center Marc Savard with 20.9 seconds remaining.
Ovechkin, in his second all-star game appearance, also became the franchise's career all-star goal leader with three, surpassing Mike Gartner's total of two. Gartner made four all-star appearances.
"I'm good," Ovechkin said, grinning.
Ovechkin said he was happy to net a pair of goals. But he was proud when Paddock scrambled his lines and pairings so that he could put "The Russian Five" on the ice for two shifts in the third period. The quintet was comprised of forwards Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar. It created several scoring chances, but struggled defensively.
"Don't talk about that," Kovalchuk said. "Two shifts and we're a minus two."
Ovechkin said: "It was pretty cool. The fans love it."
Ovechkin was easily the most interviewed player, sitting down for sessions with dozens of television networks. During his hour-long media availability on Saturday morning, he was so inundated with questions he missed the bus back to the team hotel.
In addition to the media obligations, Ovechkin also signed hundreds of jerseys, pucks, sticks and other memorabilia and pose for photo shoots and submit to a laser scan of his head, which will used to create an Ovechkin figurine.
Despite the considerable demand on his time, he still managed to have a good time. Ovechkin spent much of his free time hanging out with Kovalchuk.
The longtime friends -- who are 1-2 in the goal scoring race, with Ovechkin two goals ahead with 39 -- caught up over a sushi dinner Saturday night after Ovechkin's dazzling performance in the SuperSkills's Breakaway Challenge event.
"It's always great time to spend time with your friends, your Russian friends," he said.
From Detroit Free Press, Jan. 28:
"Ovechkin, he's a character. He's a guy we need to use to promote our game," Osgood said. "Not only Crosby, but Kovalchuk. We need these guys, and that's what this weekend was all about -- to show these young guys and let fans in America know who these guys are.
From Washington Times by Corey Masisak, Jan. 28:
Ovechkin was everywhere this weekend, cracking jokes with members of the media from around the world and discussing how his team has risen from the bottom of the NHL standings to the verge of the Southeast Division lead in barely more than two months.
At some point during the weekend, every major news organization associated with hockey both in the United States (NBC and Versus) and Canada (TSN, CBC, Rogers SportsNet) interviewed Ovechkin. There were also some less traditional ones, such as MTV, and a chat with a female reporter from Page Six, the gossip section of the New York Post.
If there needed to be more proof that no player in the NHL (not named Crosby) can match Ovechkin's popularity, plenty of it surfaced this weekend. Each time the All-Stars were announced to the crowd, Ovechkin easily drew the loudest cheer for out-of-town players.
And Ovechkin was content to bask in the spotlight. He was the last player left in the Eastern Conference dressing room Saturday night after the skills competition, answering questions about his "hockey-baseball" moves he had just attempted in the shootout challenge.
He found plenty of ways to keep himself busy when he wasn't talking to the media. Ovechkin spent part of yesterday morning having his face scanned for a new action figure from McFarlane Toys. He also had dinner at a sushi restaurant with fellow Russian and shootout coach Ilya Kovalchuk.
Before the game last night, Ovechkin shuffled through the two dressing rooms collecting sticks from other All-Stars. He brought 10 with him to trade, and he was carrying one around and having other players sign it. The stick will be auctioned off, and the proceeds will go to Athletes Against Autism — the charity Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig co-founded.
Ovechkin's three career All-Star goals are the most in team history, and he is the first Washington player to have a multigoal game.
Eastern Conference coach John Paddock put Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin between Ovechkin and Kovalchuk for two shifts in the third period.
Markov and Sergei Gonchar joined them for an all-Russian unit, but they were scored on 41 seconds in and again midway through the period — though Buffalo's Brian Campbell was on the ice instead of Markov.
"I am sure it was a special moment for Russian people back home," Gonchar said.
Added Kovalchuk: "Don't ask about that. Two shifts and minus-two — unbelievable."
From Ottawa Citizen, Jan, 28:
bumped into Alexander Ovechkin at a party Saturday night in Atlanta and he gave me the “missed it by this much” sign with his thumb and finger.
“So close,” he said, half-smiling, half grimacing. “They would have gone crazy if I got it.”
He was referring to that circus juggle-and-throw-the-puck-in-the-air-360-degree-spin-baseball-swing move he attempted earlier that night in the “Breakaway Challenge” (worst name everrrrrrr!) at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
He’s bang-on. If he somehow connects and scores on that swing, it is still being talked about in every office, schoolyard, and illegal bathhouse in the country.
As it is, Ovechkin’s creativity may saved the shootout from being a disaster of glowing puck proportions. In fact, he probably single-handedly assured it will be back next year.
Ovechkin's interview at All-Stars by TSN sports broadcaster Ryan Rishaug