BUFFALO – The morning after the latest shining moment in his career, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson remained humble.
Take, for instance, his conversation with his children when they expressed their excitement about him hitting the 400-goal milestone by scoring the overtime winner in Friday’s 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.
“My kids asked me, ’400 goals? Who has the most goals?’,” Alfredsson said here Saturday morning as the Senators prepared for their New Year’s Eve game against the Buffalo Sabres. “I told them, there’s one guy (Wayne Gretzky) who has 892…So, if you put it all in perspective, it’s a great milestone and I’m very proud of it, no question, but there are a lot greater goal scorers than I am.”
For the record, Alfredsson is the 86th player in the history of the NHL to hit the 400-goal mark.
His 400th came 16 years, two months and 17 days after his first goal in his second NHL game; a Martin Straka shot which deflected off his butt and past Florida Panthers goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick in a 6-2 Senators defeat. The 100th goal came against goaltender Brian Boucher in a 6-1 win over Philadelphia on Oct. 17, 2000. Number 200 was versus Michael Leighton and the Chicago Blackhawks in a 6-1 victory on Dec. 18, 2003 and his 300th was into an empty net in a 6-4 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers on Nov. 1, 2007.
Alfredsson says the latest feat ranks among his favourite moments in the NHL, up there with his 1,000th game and 1,000th point, especially since his family was still here, visiting from Sweden.
“You’ll take (goals) anyway you can, but being on home ice, being down 3-0 and coming back and winning in overtime, makes it even more special,” he said. “I don’t think you could have drawn it up any better before the game.”
As soon as Alfresson retires, a healthy debate will rage about whether he should be in the NHL Hall of Fame. He has 1050 points in 1088 regular season games and another 45 goals and 43 assists in 107 career playoff games. (There are never ideal comparisons, but I liken his numbers to those of long-time Toronto Maple Leafs captain Darryl Sittler, who netted 484 goals and 1121 points in 1096 regular season games and added another 29 goals and 45 assists in 76 post-season games).
Of course, that talk can’t start until Alfredsson retires, a subject the Senators captain will re-visit once the current season ends. So far, he’s content – if not completely satisfied – with the way the current season has gone, especially after his injury riddled 2010-11 season and career-threatening back disc surgery during the summer.
“I’m not as consistent as I want to be, where I was earlier in my career, but overall, I’m skating a lot better (than last year) and I’m able to play offence and defence, the way I’ve always played,” he said. “Last year, I had to kind of conserve (my energy) with what I did more.”
The other big news for Alfredsson during the week was that he moved into third place in voting among forwards for the All-Star Game to be played at Scotiabank Place on Jan. 29. Alfredsson has been bolstered by the Ottawa-wide campaign to get him into the game, complete with election-type campaign posters in and around the arena and messages of support from community leaders, including Mayor Jim Watson. If he stays in that spot, he would earn an automatic entry in the starting lineup, where the Alfredsson love-in will continue.
Even in that regard, he’s humble about the situation. “It makes me feel good that people care and want to see me in there, but it kind of makes me look bad that I can’t play myself in (based on numbers),” he said, with a laugh. “It’s obviously great to see that fans are trying to help me out and that they’re getting as much of a kick out of (the voting) as I do.”