Alex Ovechkin keeps on keeping on

Bruce Bennett

Tuesday saw the Capitals' captain score his 46th goal of the season. He has nine of the team's 25 game-winning goals.

The Washington Capitals have 25 regulation/overtime wins this season.

In nine of those games — more than a third of them — captain Alex Ovechkin has been credited with the game-winning goal. He did it again Tuesday night, scoring on a power play early in the third period to lift Washington to a 3-2 win at Anaheim.

It was vintage Ovechkin, somehow getting free for a lethal one-timer that Jonas Hiller didn't have a snowball's chance in Anaheim of stopping.

Among the questions: How does he get that wide open? But that's better left for Bruce Boudreau. And every other coach whose players have somehow forgotten about Ovechkin.

Just think about this stat, however: Ovechkin has nine game-winning goals. Forget that the NHL's goal-scoring leader is a minus-31. That's an overrated stat, for starters. It also serves as a lame excuse for dismissing what Ovechkin has done this season.

46 goals. 20 power play goals. 9 game-winning goals.

He's having himself a great season, and Ovechkin is about the only reason the Capitals still have a chance at the playoffs. GM George McPhee's aggressive move at the trade deadline to bring in Jaroslav Halak is paying dividends, as the former Blues and Sabres goalie has a .931 save percentage in six starts for Washington. The team is 4-2 so far with Halak in goal, and if he keeps playing well, it should be enough to give the Capitals an improved shot at the postseason.

Halak's acquisition means Washington might be rescued from the uneven play of Braden Holtby. It gives the team a veteran to lean on down the stretch.

But Ovechkin is the engine. There are some miles on the proverbial ties, but he is still as good a goal-scorer as anyone you'll find in the game. Barring injury, he'll undoubtedly hit 50 goals for a fifth time in his career, and first time since the 2009-10 season.

(In fairness, he hit at a 54-goal pace last season, but only played 48 games because of the lockout.)

Do I think he'll win the Hart Trophy? Not at the moment. It's Sidney Crosby's award to lose, being the leading scorer in the NHL and the unquestioned leader of a team riddled by all sorts of injuries throughout the season. However, if the Capitals are able to go on a run and get into the Eastern Conference playoffs, Ovechkin certainly deserves consideration.

This might not be a season at the level of his back-to-back Hart Trophy seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09, but the supporting cast this year isn't quite as formidable. There isn't as much star power on this Washington team, and on the surface, it seems it should be easier to slow Ovechkin down. Instead, he's averaging almost three-quarters of a goal per game.

It says something about Ovechkin, as it does about the offensive mind of Adam Oates.

That might not get the Capitals into the playoffs, but it should earn Ovechkin and Oates a little appreciation as the push continues.

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