Friday, April 19, 2024
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NHL Star Power Index: Alex Ovechkin regains elite form, Auston Matthews continues to dominate

Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing — it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world’s attention.

These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they’re creating. We’ll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.

It was a rough start to the 2023-24 season for Alex Ovechkin, but the Washington Capitals star has completely turned this campaign around following the All-Star break.

Ovechkin has tallied seven goals and an assist over his last five games, including three two-goal performances in that stretch. The Capitals winger is already having the best month of his season with 15 points (10 goals & five assists) in 13 games in March.

Ovechkin is also one of the biggest reasons that the Capitals are making a push toward a potential playoff berth. On Sunday, the Capitals shut out the Winnipeg Jets 3-0, and Ovechkin led the charge with a pair of goals in that contest.

In doing so, Ovechkin became the third player in NHL history to record 18 25-goal seasons as he joined Gordie Howe (20) and Jaromir Jagr (18). He also became the fourth-oldest player in league history to record a five-game goal streak along with Brett Hull (39 years old in 2003-04), Johnny Bucyk (39 years old in 1974-75), and Joe Pavelski (38 years old in 2022-23).

During the third period of Sunday’s game, defenseman John Carlson got the scoring started with a power-play goal to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. Just over two minutes later, teammate Connor McMichael attempted to win the face-off, and the puck stayed put right in the face-off circle. Ovechkin then ripped a shot that just squeaked past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for a goal.

Later in the period, the Capitals were able to put the Jets away. T.J. Oshie brought the puck into the offensive zone before dropping it off to teammate Dylan Strome. Upon receiving the puck near the blue line, Strome fired a pinpoint pass over to Ovechkin, who was able to convert a backhanded goal in all alone on Hellebuyck.

Ovechkin has proven to be a goal-scoring machine as of late, which has been huge for a Capitals team that is attempting to make a playoff push. 

The Capitals star sits just 46 goals behind Wayne Gretzky for the NHL’s all-time goals record. Considering the hot streak that he’s on, that record could be attainable next season for Ovechkin if he scores a handful of goals over the season’s final month.

Auston Matthews has certainly had no problem putting the puck in the net this season, and that fact doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.

The Toronto Maple Leafs star has tallied four goals and five assists in his last four games. What might be even more mind-boggling is the fact that Matthews is averaging 6.25 shots per contest, including putting the puck on net a staggering nine times in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss against the New Jersey Devils.

Matthews recorded a goal on Tuesday, and it marked the fourth time in the last seven games that the Maple Leafs center has found the back of the net.

During Tuesday’s game, the Maple Leafs found themselves knotted at 2-2 with the Devils in the second period. That’s when Matthews made his impact on the contest.

At the 4:51 mark of the second period, Maple Leafs defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin fired the puck from his own zone to Matthews, who was already down in the offensive zone. Matthews was able to corral the puck, outmuscle Devils defenseman Simon Nemec, and sent a sweeping shot past goaltender Jake Allen to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead.

Matthews currently has 59 goals on the season and is on pace to score another 10 before the postseason. The Maple Leafs star will have topped the 60-goal mark for the second time in three seasons if he gets just one more.

The Maple Leafs is the league’s leader in goals by a commanding margin as he holds an eight-goal advantage over Florida Panthers star Sam Reinhart for the honor. 

The Nashville Predators are arguably the NHL’s hottest team with a 16-0-2 record over their last 18 games. One of the main reasons for that increased level of success has been because of star defenseman Roman Josi.

Josi has registered four goals and four assists over his last five games. In addition, the Predators veteran defenseman is currently on a six-game point streak.

In Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights, Josi showed just how clutch he can be.

The Golden Knights possessed a commanding 4-1 lead entering the third period, and the Predators were facing an uphill climb. However, Ryan O’Reilly, Filip Forsberg, and Gustav Nyquist scored goals to tie the game, and ultimately force overtime.

Just 40 seconds into the overtime period, the Predators deployed a spectacular three-man game with terrific puck movement. Forward Filip Forsberg handed the puck off to teammate Ryan O’Reilly, who then dropped it off to Josi near the blue line. Josi then stick-handled his way towards the Golden Knights net, and was able to get in deep and tuck the puck past goaltender Jiri Patera to give the Predators a thrilling victory.

Josi is often known for being a stabilizing force on the blue line, but he has also continued to be an offensive weapon in recent seasons. The Predators defenseman is just four goals from tying his career-high in goals (23) that he set during the 2021-22 season.

As the Predators make their way toward a playoff berth, having Josi playing at an elite level offensively is a sensation sight to see.

While Jake Guentzel was a big addition to the Carolina Hurricanes roster, he may not be the most important piece that recently returned to the ice.

Goaltender Frederik Andersen had been out of the lineup since November as a result of a blood clot issue. Andersen made his way back to the ice earlier this month and has been exceptional ever since.

In his six games since returning, Andersen has tallied a 6-0-0 record to go along with a 1.34 goals-against-average and a .951 save percentage. Andersen has surrendered two goals or less in each of those games and even registered a shutout during that stretch.

In his most recent outing, Andersen stopped 32 of the 33 shots that he faced in a 2-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Andersen gives Carolina a stabilizing presence in the crease with the Stanley Cup Playoffs right around the corner. Having a solid one-two punch with Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov could be extremely beneficial come playoff time.

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