Alex Ovechkin’s historic goal chase is one of three top NHL stories at the Holiday Break

ALEX OVECHKIN ALL STAR GAME
Nov 24, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) fist bumps with his son Sergei (L) through the glass after the Capitals’ game against the Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL announced the extension of the Holiday Break yesterday, and will resume action on December 28. As we look back on the season so far, several story lines have emerged.

Here’s the biggest ones to watch as we await for the puck to drop again on the season.

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Alex Ovechkin’s historic goal chase

Alex Ovechkin had plenty of doubters coming into the season about whether he could break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal mark of 894.

The 36 year-old captain of the Washington Capitals is making a strong case to win his fourth Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. As of right now, Ovechkin is second in points with 47 in 30 games, two behind both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (49). His 22 goals also rank second just one behind Draisaitl.

“I didn’t pay attention to all those bull**** talk,” Ovechkin said about his doubters. “You know, it’s good for them. Good for me. Whatever.”

Ovechkin has 752 career goals and ranks fourth behind Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801) and Jaromir Jagr (766). At his current pace, he could catch Jagr this season. He signed a 5 year deal before the season began, so he should have plenty of time to pass the Great One.

Dealing with COVID-19

nhl covid
May 27, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference before game one of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL extended the holiday break by another day as its teams continue to cope with widespread COVID-19 cases.

The league announced Friday evening that the 14 games originally scheduled for Monday would be postponed, and play instead would resume Tuesday, Dec. 28. This makes rescheduling games even more challenging.

COVID-19 postponements also led to the league being forced to opt-out of the Olympics. They will now use that February break in the schedule to complete the games that were postponed.

Additionally, the league is also going to have to deal with how best to move forward in dealing with the latest spike in cases. There’s a lot of talk about taxi squads being re-instated, but more measures are needed.

This season, over 150 players have entered COVID-19 protocol with dozens of games postponed.

Eichel drama leads to paradigm shift for neck surgery

Jack Eichel surgery
Eichel wearing his new team colors (Zak Krill/Vegas Golden Knights)

One of the main reasons for Jack Eichel demanding a trade out of Buffalo was so he could have his preferred surgery. Eichel wanted an artificial disc replacement over the team desired fusion surgery for a herniated disc is his neck.

After being traded to a team in Vegas that would let him have the surgery, Eichel said he hoped that this situation help improve the situation for others. It did, a lot faster than he could’ve imagined.

Tyler Johnson, 31, underwent the same complex artificial disk replacement surgery that Jack Eichel of the Vegas Golden Knights within weeks of each other.

Asked about the nature of Johnson’s surgery, Blackhawks interim coach Derek King said, “I’m not a doctor, believe me, but they tried different procedures. It wasn’t getting what they want out of them, so this was the next step. And they decided this is what was best for him and his career.”

It is expected that in the CBA discussions, the NHLPA will seek to have more say in surgical procedures going forward.