Alex the Great is repaying Washington

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

So much for that $124-million US contract taking the gas out of Alex Ovechkin's tank.

Technically, the 13-year whopper he signed early last month doesn't kick in until next season, but the point is, for the foreseeable future it is hard to envision complacency getting the better of this kid, of the engine being put into neutral.

Not even a stick in the face, a puck in the mouth or a broken nose, the fifth of his career, could impose disinteret on him, let alone slow him down or stop the Capitals star on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, a 5-4 overtime Washington victory.

Right now, he has a face only a mother, a coach and general manager could love. But while the face may be battered and bruised, his game is pretty -- very pretty.

Consider the totals against the Canadiens:

- Ovechkin scored four goals (including the winner) for the second time in his career and the second time in 14 games.

- It was his fourth career hat trick, second career five-point game.

As a result, he leads the NHL in goals (43), scoring (70 points) and yesterday was named player of the month for January in which Ovechkin led the league with 13 goals and 22 points in 13 games. He has points in all but four of his past 36 games.

Most significant, though, is that since signing the new contract he has 11 goals and 18 points in nine games.

And one more stat that matters: Against the Canadiens, he led his team in points with five but also hits with five, although general manager George McPhee figured he had more hits than that.

As for the complacency issue, McPhee can't foresee his young gun falling victim to such a malaise.

"Of all the issues we had to consider/discuss regarding Alex and the 13-year term, complacency was the easiest to dismiss," McPhee said. "We've never seen an engine like his.

"He always works, be it practice or game. His intensity and enthusiasm come naturally.

"There is nothing contrived about him."

In the wake of Sidney Crosby's ankle injury, a theory exists that Ovechkin is very much driven to making the NHL his league.

"While I don't believe Alex would ever think in terms of the NHL being 'his' league, he does believe that it is his responsibility to be the best," McPhee said.

"That was driven into him at a young age. He is comfortable performing in this light, seems to revel in the constant challenge it brings and may, indeed, see an opening this year to be regarded in this light."

Whatever the motivation, it is working and if the Capitals stay close in the playoff hunt, and especially if they get there and he is at or near the top of the scoring leaders, it will be hard to bypass him for MVP honours.

In the end, he could wind up with the Hart Trophy, the Richard for most goals and the Art Ross for most points.

And with 13 more years to improve upon it.

THIS AND THAT

So far, no Leafs player with no-trade or no-movement clauses is publicly volunteering to move on. If none does it privately, then interim GM Cliff Fletcher will be forced to get creative, or play some hard ball. But they are either going to have to warn of severely reduced ice times moving forward, more long bouts of losing, possible demotions to the minors, possible half-priced waiver recalls with no control over future destination, to prompt some action. They are also going to have to eat some big-time salary to help clear the decks for next season ... One fewer potential rental player at the deadline was removed yesterday when the Nashville Predators wisely signed J.P. Dumont to a four-year, $16 million deal. Dumont played a significant role in the Predators going on an 8-3-3 run. He had points in all 14 games and is on a 16-game scoring streak. He was involved in 20 of the club's 48 goals last month. Now to see if the Predators can sign Peter Forsberg.


Videos

Photos