About a week ago, I wrote a post trying desperately to find what the puck was wrong with Alex Ovechkin. I looked at his play in Russia, his linemates, his #fancystats, and even his contract with Gillette. But, fortunately, I was never able to post the article, because the night before I was going to post it, something incredible happened.
Our captain got a point.
And since that assist in the colossal 6-3 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday, Alex Ovechkin has gone on to post points in three further games after recording just three points through his first eight games of the year.
As much as we all hate to admit it, the Ovechkin of today is not the Ovechkin of his Hart Trophy-winning days. Beyond the fact that he is often double- and triple-marked on every rush, Ovi has looked slower and less motivated. But with two goals and three assists in his last four games, Ovechkin has offered another glimpse of the truly phenomenal hockey talent he is.
During this stretch, the 27-year-old Russian has played on the right (!) side of a first-line centered by top-scorer Mike Ribeiro and flanked by either Wojtek Wolski or, most recently, Jason Chimera.
It's no coincidence that Ovechkin's best game of the season and the Caps' best game of the season came in the same game (apologies for the assonance), a 5-0 drubbing of the Florida Panthers last night. When Ovechkin plays well, the Caps play well, and if the Caps want to bounce back from a dreadful 2-8-1 start and get anywhere near the playoffs, Ovi is going to have to perform. Here's hoping he keeps it up.
While I agree in principle with most of what you say, it remains to be seen whether Ovi's recent success represents an aberration or a genuine change from a long, sad trend which coincides with Tiger Woods' fall from dominance in that both players' declines commenced after 2009 and both players' problems appear to be between their ears--(at least in part).
This club plays dumb hockey. They take poor angles to puck carriers, they repeatedly surrender pucks in their own end, and then they compound the problem by their ineptness at getting the puck out of their own end. If the Capitals are ever going to return to their former glory, Joel Ward CANNOT be their leading goal scorer. And Niklas Backstrom--perhaps their most highly skilled all around talent--and a player I think deserves EVERY BIT as much blame for Washington's failings as anyone else on their roster--needs to stop playing like a cadaver, MOVE HIS FEET, and actually PLAY like the elite talent his skill set suggests he should be.
As for the goaltending, until his shutout in their last game against the Preds, I \was all set to send out an APB for Braden Holtby--the net minder who looked like a budding star ever since he went 10-2-2 with a pair of shutouts in a late season call up by Bruce Boudreau a couple of seasons ago. And when he followed that up with admirable efforts in the playoffs last year I thought Braden set himself up as the Caps' premier goalie going forward. But he's looked like horse manure ever since and I can only hope that the shutout he turned in this past Saturday is the start of a trend toward reliable performances from here on in.
Santa Monica, California
@logankeefe I do agree with much of what you say. The team has not been smart. We've seen them play smart, and this isn't it. I don't know if it's down to Oates, bad conditioning, or just players not giving it their all, but it needs to be better. That said, I'm not sure it's right at this time to point fingers. Not yet. Everybody has been poor, not just Marcus or Nicky or Ovi or even Holtby (and I'm very firmly on #TeamNeuvy). Everyone. Everyone needs to improve. When the whole team starts pulling their weight, we'll be better.