As the NHL continues to monitor the coronavirus pandemic, several scenarios are being considered should the League resume play in the months ahead.
Among the biggest questions the NHL could face is what to do with its incomplete regular-season itinerary. Teams have anywhere between 11 and 14 regular-season games remaining, but one possibility being bandied about is skipping those games altogether and resuming the campaign with the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That scenario suits Alex Ovechkin just fine.
“We don’t want to play those extra games,” Ovechkin said of the Capitals’ 13 remaining regular-season games. “I’d rather start the playoffs right away.”
Ovechkin spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon on a video chat coordinated by the League. He was joined by Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, New York Islanders captain Anders Lee and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban.
Thursday marked two weeks since the NHL season went on pause, although it’s still premature to even speculate when the League may return.
“The first week was kind of a good thing, relaxing, we chilling,” said Ovechkin, who has remained in his northern Virginia home with his family. “Now, it’s kind of getting boring.”
OVECHKIN STILL TRAINING:
One of the challenges some players around the League are facing is how to train and remain in top shape without a target date for a potential return. It’s also difficult for some players to train at all while team facilities and ice rinks are closed.
During the video call, Lee said that the gym in his New York apartment is also closed. The Islanders forward joked that his workouts have mostly been limited to running with his two dogs.
“I pull one of them and the other one pulls me,” Lee said.
Fortunately for Ovechkin, the Capitals captain has a far more favorable set up that should serve him well should the NHL return this summer. Besides the access to his own home gym, Ovechkin’s personal trainer, Pavel Burlachenko, is also living with him. Ovechkin revealed that over the past few years, Burlachenko has stayed with him in Washington in the weeks leading up to the postseason.
“I am lucky enough to have him here and we do some workouts at the gym in my house,” Ovechkin said, adding that they have also been running outdoors, playing soccer and riding the bike.
Ovechkin said that because he and his teammates aren’t able to work out together, it can be a challenge to stay motivated. That’s where having his own personal trainer comes in handy.
“To have a coach, trainer with me, he’s helped me a lot,” he said. “You get used to being with the team, working out with the team all year and right now you are kind of by yourself and it is kind of hard to push yourself through that mode… It is kind of hard.
“Sometimes I don’t want to do it but he says, ‘OK let’s go, we have to work out.’ It is always a good time to sit on the couch and watch TV and play with the kid, but you never know when the season is coming back and you have to be in shape, so again, try to do my best. It is kind of hard to be honest with you, but in this situation you have to take it the best way you can.”
MORE IMPORTANT GOALS THAN 50
At the time of the NHL’s pause, Ovechkin was tied with Boston’s David Pastrnak with an NHL-high 48 goals. It seemed inevitable that Ovechkin would score twice more this season to secure a ninth career 50-goal campaign. That would have tied him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history.
While the opportunity at another 50-goal season may not be realized if the rest of the regular-season is ultimately cancelled, Ovechkin says he has more important goals for himself and his family.
“It sucks to not score 50 and to not get another milestone,” Ovechkin said, “but right now our mind is on just trying to be safe. It’s a scary situation. It’s a scary moment for people all around, not only us. You think about those little things, but as soon as you start thinking worldwide and what’s going on in the world, it’s scary. So my mind right now, it’s not about 50 goals or catching the Great One or somebody else. My mind right now is about doing the best what I can do or what my family can do to be safe.”
Ovechkin relayed a similar message when asked at the end of the video call if he had any words he’d like to share with the Capitals fan base.
“The most important thing is take care of yourself, take care of your family, friends. Help each other just to be safe because right now is hard time. We all miss you, we all miss that atmosphere. It’s always crazy when we play hockey. You guys always been tremendous to us. It doesn’t matter where we play, on the road or at home … I’m pretty sure lots of guys miss that atmosphere. The most important thing right now is to take care of your family, take care of yourself. Try to help if somebody needs the help. Because right now we are together and we have to fight through it together.”