Through the first seven games of the Capitals’ season, there’s been no secret on what’s made the team go.
Their top line, consisting of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, makes for the team’s top three scorers. In Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings at Capital One Arena, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov scored once more as the team’s only offense of the night.
Most notably, Ovechkin scored his eighth goal of the season, and 738th all-time, to move within just three goals of Brett Hull’s mark of No. 4 all-time.
“It’s unbelievable,” Wilson said of Ovechkin. “I think he just gets hungrier and hungrier, honestly. This year he just seems hungrier on the net, he’s shooting the puck a ton, he’s getting good looks and making the most of them. When he’s playing like that you just want to get it over to him and he’s finding the back of the net.”
Wilson has yet to find the net this season but has played set-up man on the line with seven even-strength assists to start the season.
“I mean obviously zero goals isn’t where I want to be,” Wilson said. “There’s been looks, the line has been playing well. I’m not going to sit here and say…Obviously, I’d like to score a couple goals. But ‘O’ has been playing really well, Kuzy’s been playing really well, and if I can complement them I’m going to try and keep doing that.”
As a line, they’ve combined for 30 points in just seven games (including 13 goals) as the drivers of the Capitals’ offense.
“He’s (Ovechkin) the guy that drives the ship for us every single night and that’s no easy feat in the NHL,” Wilson said. “We’ll keep rallying with him. He’s playing great and definitely helps the team win games when he’s playing like that.”
At 36-years-old, Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals through the first two weeks of the season and has shown no signs of slowing down despite this being his 18th year with the Capitals. In fact, he’s scoring like he did early in his career.
“It seems like he is in a real good spot,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He is playing with pace. He is finding himself with the puck on his stick a lot. Again, it was more a normal routine for him throughout the summer coming into training camp. He had a good training camp and he’s off and running.”
Naturally, the Capitals’ top line will slow down on the scoring. Ovechkin has eight goals on 31 shots (a 25.8 shooting percentage) and Kuznetsov has five goals on 22 shots (a 22.7 shooting percentage). Even with Wilson’s seemingly inevitable progression to the mean, it’s unreasonable to expect two players, even Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, to be nearly goal-per-game players.
But for now, at least through the first seven games, they’ve been the engine to the entire offensive operation.