There was a ton of criticism levied at Alexander Ovechkin this season. Some of it right here at DCPSR. There have been calls to take the "C" off his jersey. Those calls are fading.
Ovechkin is heating up in a big way. Aside from scoring, just take a look at how Ovechkin has played since the 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on February 7. Ovechkin is skating hard, hitting more frequently, taking more shots, and playing with some passion. We all may look back to that Pittsburgh loss as the game that woke up Ovechkin. Ovi put up a goal and assist in that 5-2 loss, but let his displeasure be known.
Since that loss, the Caps have won 4 of their last 6, games including a huge 5-1 win over the Devils yesterday. Ovechkin paved the way, racking up his first hat trick in nearly two years. Ovi also added an assist on Troy Brouwer's 8th tally of the season. The Caps have been frustrated. They let that frustration run loss on New Jersey in the third period. Caps scored 4 goals in a 16 minute period to pay retribution for a 3-2 loss on Thursday to the Devils.
Besides the raining hats at the Verizon Center, the Caps tallied their first short handed marker of the season as Eric Fehr caught New Jersey net minder Johan Hedberg out of the new with a nice rap around goal.
Goalie Braden Holtby had another super performance, stopping 16 of 17 shots to improve to 5-6 on the season. It was Holtby's eighth consecutive start.
So who's hot and who's not?
Alex Ovechkin: After a slow start to the shortended season, Ovi is picking up his game. Over his last 9 games, Ovi has added 11 points, including 6 goals. In 6 of those 9 games, Ovi has put the puck on net at least 5 times or more each game.
Nicklas Backstrom: The assist machine is starting to added up helpers. Although Backstrom has tallied just one goal this season, he has added 12 assists, 5 of which have come over the last 5 games.
Troy Brouwer: Having quite the year this season. He is tied with Ovi for the team lead in goals with 8. He has 6 goals and 4 assists in the month of February.
Eric Fehr: Fehr got a chance to come back to the Caps after a failed one year stint in Winnipeg that saw Fehr add just 2 goals and 1 assist in 35 games last season. Fehr chose to return to familiar ground in Washington, where he spent his first six if seven season of his career. Expected to be a healthy scratch often, Fehr instead has earn ice time. Fehr has tallied 4 goals and 7 assists in his last 6 games. His marker yesterday was the Caps first short handed goal of the season. Fehr has also added 3 goals and 10 shots on net in the third period this season.
Mike Ribeiro: You can just keep him here. He has been on the up all season, easily being the most consistent Washington Capitals in a rather inconsistent season for the Caps. Ribeiro has 5 goals and 8 assists in 10 games in February. Ribeiro added two assists yesterday, both coming on two of Ovi's three goals.
Mike Green: Injured again.
Jason Chimera: After piling up a career high 20 goals last season, Chimera has been blanked in the first 17 games this season. If Washington is going to make a run to turn this poor season around, Chimera must be a part of that turn around. They are missing his scoring from last year.
Wojtek Wolski: The Caps were looking for a turn around season when they signed Wolski. In 17 games, Wolski has just 2 goals and 2 assists. He is also on an eight game scoreless streak.
There is NO excuse for Niklas Backstrom having tallied just one goal in 18 games. NONE. After all, he racked up 32 goals and 106 points a couple of seasons ago. Yet NO ONE lays anywhere near enough blame for the Capitals' horse-bleep play over the past two seasons at Backstrom's feet--ALL of the blame seems to go to Ovechkin, who, until recently,deserved his share for playing like a zombie half the time compared to what we once knew. In fact, Alex's fall from grace parallels that of Tiger Woods', who also has morphed into just one of many good players ever since 2009, the last year Ovi really looked like "THE GREAT 8" and the last year, not coincidentally, that the Caps looked like an offensive juggernaut with 313 goals scored, as I recall. But Niklas Bakstrom still deserves an awful lot of blame for Washington's offensive failings over that period since he's their best center and the trigger man for their attack...