MONTREAL - Now Alex Ovechkin is flushed with success.
A couple of weeks after his crack about being almost in the toilet -- "you just forgot to flush me" -- the Washington Capitals captain rolls in the Bell Centre to play the Canadiens Tuesday night as the hottest player on the hottest team.
After going three games without a goal March 9-12, Ovechkin has 16 goals in his last 14 games and has tied Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead with 25 (that translates into a 52-goal season over an 82-game schedule).
After a more restrictive period under coach Dale Hunter, new Caps coach Adam Oates, who had one of the sharpest offensive minds in the game as a player (sixth all-time in assists, with 1,079) has helped Ovechkin expand his offensive repertoire and made Ovechkin more the the focus of the Caps' power play.
Eight of those 16 goals have come with the man advantage.
"That power play has been tweaked a little bit and he's the trigger man again," said Canadiens penalty killer Jeff Halpern, who played with the Caps and Ovechkin last season. Halpern noted Ovechkin has been connecting from the left wing circle, a favoured spot among the league's elite scorers.
"They've shifted him into that Stamkos spot. He's been scoring on the power play and that can help him build confidence in other parts of his game," said Halpern.
Having Nik Backstrom as his centreman doesn't hurt, either.
After seasons of 32 and 38 goals -- not too shabby -- Ovechkin was seemingly written off by some commentators and people in the game, who questioned his commitment, his conditioning, just about everything.
"How do you write a guy like that off? What is he? I think he's my age, 28," said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges (Ovechkin is actually 27). "He's in the prime of his career. I don't know how may goals he's scored in his career (364). He wasn't just going to stop scoring, you know? Every player has a stretch where they struggle.
"He's got some pretty good players around him. Backstrom, I think, is one of the best playmakers in the game today."
FOR THE REST OF CHRIS STEVENSON'S COLUMN, CLICK BELOW