Kovalchuk has amassed 684 career points, but as the decidedly Undead Devils seek their 17th victory in 20 games at Tampa Bay tonight, this is the first time he’s notched points in 11 straight games.
He’s the Big Shot, yet Kovalchuk says his isn’t the Devils’ hardest shot. He nominates wild wing Brian Rolston for that unofficial title.
“I think Rollie. We should have a contest,” Kovalchuk said.
“Me,” Rolston claimed, then reconsidered. “Kovy, he can shoot it hard, and he shoots it accurately. I’m not going to say I shoot it harder than he does. He said I do? Then I’ll say he does.”
Rolston and Kovalchuk each said they never have taken part in the hardest shot competition at All-Star weekend, nor even had the radar gun put on their blasts.
“They were going to have my shot timed in Minnesota, but management found out and stopped that. They didn’t want other teams to know,” Rolston said, mystified.
Rolston and Kovalchuk have been the triggermen on the Devils’ five-forward power play, and been keys to New Jersey’s revival. Kovalchuk stands 11-10-21 in the Devils’ 16-1-2 rise from the NHL cellar, Rolston 8-9-17. Rolston’s ripper is familiar to Devils watchers, and he’s been far more accurate lately than earlier in his career.
Kovalchuk’s one-timer may be even more fearsome. He possesses a remarkable ability to slap any pass as it arrives and put it on net, often dropping to one knee in his trademark fashion.
“It might be that my wrist shot is harder than my slap shot,” Kovalchuk said. “But I don’t think your shot has to be that hard. You have to put it in the right spot. You can shoot a puck 200 miles per hour and it’s not going to go through leather pads.
“That’s why when I was young, my dad and I would shoot pucks outside on a sheet of plastic, 100-200 pucks a day. He always told me a wrist shot was more dangerous than a slap shot because it’s quicker, and it’s unpredictable. Goalies never know when you’re shooting.”
He credits technology rather than his technique for his shot.
“It all depends on the curve,” Kovalchuk said. “Some guys use an open curve. I always use a toe curve. I like to control the puck, so the toe curve lets me hold it without looking. With the game so fast now, you can’t look at the puck or you’re going to get killed. You have to keep your head up all the time.
“I was one of the guys who would have trouble with the old [half-inch] curve all the time. I don’t think an even bigger curve would make much difference. Some guys can play with a big curve, but with the composite sticks now, it would be dangerous for the goalies.”
Goalies are not relishing shots from Rolston and Kovalchuk as it is.