Alex Ovechkin's strength
I wrote a story about Alex Ovechkin for the newspaper over the weekend. It was a story I began working on before the Brian Campbell suspension thing happened, which sort of stole the guts of the story, since every working sports journalist in America proceeded to weigh in on Ovechkin's playing style after the Campbell hit.
But one of the points I was hoping to get at concerned Ovechkin's size and strength and how that factors into his style of play. Ovechkin's listed at 233 pounds; that makes him one of the 15 heaviest forwards in the NHL. Only two of those forwards are under 6-feet-4; Ovechkin and Keith Tkachuk.
Ovechkin also brought his personal trainer over from Russia about two weeks ago; he'll be here through the end of the season. His parents told me that he's been tailoring his workouts so that he'll be at peak condition at the end of this week, for the playoffs, and that this explained his recent scoring slump more than any concerns about being tentative.
Ovechkin, as I wrote in the story, didn't finish at the top of any of the Caps' weightlifting or off-ice physical tests, and his best performance didn't come in an upper-body drill. (It was the vertical leap.) But lots of people had lots to say about his strength, and space limits precluded 17 quotes on the subject. Here's a sampling of what I had to cut.
Bruce Boudreau: "Have you not seen the movie The Goonies? They've got Alex Karros playing Mongo or something like this. (Actually, John Matuszak playing Sloth, but same difference - ed.) And he's so strong, he goes like this, he pushes a guy and he goes 10 feet. Doesn't know his own strength. Me pushing the guy wouldn't do nothing. Then he rips a candy bar. and he's ripping it like it's a piece of paper. So Alex is much stronger than 90 percent of the people that [he's checking]. I know my own strength, and it's not very. I have never been a real strong person. I don't know. I mean, he's 230 pounds, he's strong as an ox."
Tatiana, Alex's mother: "Even when the players play physically against Alex, those players are bouncing off, like a ping-pong ball. So those players need to kind of be more careful and have strength in their legs."
Brooks Laich: "I've ran into him in practice and you just bounce off of him. He's incredibly strong. He's so solid on his skates. It seems like he's rooted into the ice. He's just that strong, and you can never find him off balance either. Guys think they have him lined up, maybe his head's down a little bit, but he's so strong, it doesn't matter what position he's in. One leg, two legs, he usually finds a way to stay on his feet."
Joe Corvo: "It's kind of like, I don't know, it's kind of like running half speed into a tree if you're not as big as he is, if he's ready for it."
Shaone Morrisonn: "I've never tried to hit him hard. Why? He's 240, right? I'm 210, he's 240 and he hits hard. He's just a beast. He's so strong, and I think it's more just his strength is his burst, he just overpowers everybody."
Eric Belanger: "He's a big guy. I didn't know he was that big. The way he skates, he runs guys over, so sometimes I guess he doesn't know how strong he is. And maybe when guys don't expect that they're gonna get hit, that's why they get hurt."
Chris Drury: "He obviously loves to hit, loves that aspect of the game. You not only see it here but you saw it at the Olympics. And he's really good at it. I mean, he's one of the strongest guys in the league on his feet. He just loves that aspect of the game."
Mike Knuble: "Superstars, you don't expect them to run over you physically, but you really have got to watch out when he's on the ice. You've got to know when he's out there. You can tell when he starts getting wound up - there's just bodies around, the crowd will get behind him. Like that time in Boston this year, somebody knocked him down and then he hit the guy three times in 15 seconds. It's just like, wow. You don't expect that out of a superstar. Maybe he comes back at him once, but three times? It's kind of fun to watch....You love to hate him when he's scoring goals on you, but to come back at somebody like that, you've got to love it as a fan."
Brendan Morrison: "He puts up all these numbers, but he's one of the most physical guys in the league. It's a rare, rare combination. Unprecedented, really. I don't know if there's ever been that combination."
Eric Fehr: "I mean, every time he hits somebody, they go backwards....I think guys fear him a little bit. I've bumped into him a few times, not when he was trying to hit me, just bumping into him. He's real sturdy. He's definitely someone you don't want to run into when he's going full speed."
Ted Leonsis: "I don't think people realize his physiognomy. He's just a naturally big guy. He's thick. When you see him in his Under Armour stuff, you put your arm on his shoulder, you're like holy mackerel, you know? It's a natural thing. And he's only going to get bigger and stronger, and that's the thing that's remarkable."
Laich: "He sees the game very well, and over time his game will change. But I don't think he's ever gonna lose the raw power, where if he wants to get in a one-on-one battle with somebody, that they're never gonna push him off the puck."
Corvo: "I think he makes a lot of guys nervous....You know when he's roaming around out there in the neutral zone, you want to try to intercept that pass, because if it goes by you and he's right behind you, you're getting run over. It's not the most comfortable feeling in the world."
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