The NHL All-Star Game is right around the corner and it’s that time of year again when hockey fans from all over North America and the world will be watching the league’s best players in action.
This year, two players from the currently top-ranked Washington Capitals — forward Alex Ovechkin and goalkeeper Braden Holtby — will be joining the rosters of the Metropolitan Division team. Ovechkin and Holtby will be playing alongside a talented squad consisting of Sidney Crosby (Penguins), Taylor Hall (Devils), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers), John Tavares (Islanders), Justin Faulk (Hurricanes), Seth Jones (Blue Jackets), Ryan McDonagh (Rangers) and Sergei Bobrovsky (Blue Jackets).
With just a few days remaining before the big game kicks off, it’s time to look at the performance of Ovechkin and Holtby and how they rose to stardom.
Ovechkin’s selection into the All-Star Game comes as no surprise for NHL fans. Ovechkin — also known as “Ovi” or the “Crazy Eight” — is easily one of the most familiar names in the NHL and all of hockey. To date, few players have ever matched Ovi’s skill and ability on the ice.
The 2016-17 season has been yet another big year for the Russian winger and team captain for the Capitals. Currently, Ovechkin has 22 goals and 21 assists for a total of 43 points and is again ranked one of the top scorers in the league. He hit his milestone moment during the Caps’ 5-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 11, when he picked up his 1,000th career point on a goal scored only 35 seconds into the game.
For Crazy Eight, the NHL All-Star Game has become an all-too-familiar experience. As one of the most prolific scorers, Ovechkin hasn’t missed a single All-Star selection since his debut with the league in 2005. Six of Ovi’s 11 seasons so far have ended in 50 or more goals — an accomplishment that only five other NHLers in history have achieved. Ovechkin’s scoring prowess has earned him a total of six Rocket Richard Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy and three Hart Memorial Trophies.
In every All-Star Game that he has taken part in to date, Ovechkin has stood out the most in the Breakaway Challenge, winning three consecutive times in 2008, 2009, and 2011. This year’s All-Star Game may just be another chance for him to shine yet again.
Unlike Ovechkin, who is a veteran All-Star, Holtby is still very much in the early stages of his stardom, having made his first All-Star appearance just last season. Still, few can doubt that he has been performing exceptionally.
It was during the 2011-12 playoffs that Holtby first proved himself a force to be reckoned with. After injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth near the end of the regular season, Holtby was tasked to stop the Boston Bruins once the playoffs began. Despite having played just seven games during the regular season as a third-string backup, Holtby was able to stand his ground against the defending Stanley Cup champions, which helped advance the seventh-placed Caps’ to the next round of the playoffs.
Even as Vokoun and Neuvirth returned from injury, Dale Hunter — then head coach for the Caps — chose to keep Holtby in the net as the team went on to face the New York Rangers in the next round. Although the Caps’ season would end in that round, Holtby came out with an impressive save percentage of .935.
The 2011-12 playoffs only signaled the start of Holtby’s rise as an NHL star. In 2014-15, he picked up 41 wins to match Olaf Kolzig’s team record. Last year, Holtby had an even more remarkable achievement as he finished the season with the 48 wins — the most of all NHL goalies — to become the Vezina Trophy winner. With a 23-8-4 record and .929 save percentage so far this season, Holtby is proving himself to be a strong asset in the Capitals’ net.
To see Ovechkin and Holtby in action, be sure to catch the All-Star Game live on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 12:30 Pacific Time.
I am a Vancouver-based sports journalist currently reporting for The Ubyssey, the campus newspaper of the University of British Columbia. Sports I have covered before include hockey, basketball, football, baseball, volleyball, rugby, field hockey, swimming and track and field.