|Flyers know there's little they can do to slow down Capitals' Ovechkin|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 09 April 2008 12:15|
The numbers are dazzling for the Capitals' star, for sure, and the MVP award appears postmarked for Washington.
Now Ovechkin wants a playoff series win, and the Philadelphia Flyers are standing in the way.
The Flyers have watched tape, studied scouting reports and played with potential line combinations, yet the only thing they really know for sure about Ovechkin is that there is no sure way to stop the forward.
``He's as good as there is in the league in moving around the offensive zone to get open,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said Wednesday, two days before the teams open their first-round playoff series. ``He finds a way to get shots on the net when everyone's trying to check him.''
Ovechkin had little trouble finding the back of the net in the regular season, scoring a league-high 65 goals - the most since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux scored 69 in 1996. He won the NHL scoring title with 112 points and led the Capitals on a stunning turnaround that took them from a 6-14-1 start all the way to the playoffs.
``There's no question we're pumped to be playing one of the best players in the world right now,'' Flyers forward Scottie Upshall said.
Ovechkin's brilliance was a popular topic in the Flyers' locker room this week leading up to Game 1 on Friday night. Ovechkin scored three goals and had five points in four games against the Flyers this season. He has nine goals and 16 points in eight career games against Philly.
``He loves to score goals, he loves to throw body checks and we're ready for that,'' Flyers forward Joffrey Lupul said. ``I think the one thing that sets him above other guys that kind of have that similar skill set is just that hunger to play and score goals. You can see his excitement on the ice. He feeds off the fans, he feeds off scoring goals.''
Lupul said Ovechkin isn't the type of player who wants to play defensive hockey, so keeping the puck in the attack zone is one way to limit his opportunities.
Goalie Martin Biron - who has to stop those 100 mph shots - gave Ovechkin proper credit while also noting that he has to be concerned with the rest of the Capitals.
``He's not going to be playing 60 minutes of the game,'' Biron said. ``You have to know when he's on the ice, what he's going to do out there. We'll pay close attention to him.''
The Flyers might also try to rattle Ovechkin with big hits, trying to take his focus off the puck. But the forward likes to hit back as much as anyone in the NHL.
Stevens has watched teams try to combat Ovechkin with both skilled lines and their bruisers, and little has worked. Stevens might try Lupul, center Mike Richards and perhaps Patrick Thoresen on a line against Ovechkin.
``I don't see the physical game bothering him at all,'' Stevens said. ``There are some things you have to respect in his game. You just can't try and trade chances with him.''
While Ovechkin seems ready for his playoff debut, the Flyers went another practice without full participation. Defenseman and team captain Jason Smith is still out with an upper-body injury and remained hopeful he could play Game 1. Stevens said Smith would be rested with the hope he can play this weekend.
Derian Hatcher (leg) taped his ankle for the first time and said that helped his stability, but was more likely for Game 2 on Sunday.
Also, center Danny Briere (knee) felt more comfortable on Wednesday and expects to play Game 1.