Ovechkin’s Play Benefitting Capitals

For a few years now, the Washington Capitals have been one of the teams that usually makes the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They usually have one of the best offenses in the league and are always combatting for the Southeast Division crown come playoff time. Earlier this year, however, that was anything but the case. The Capitals got off to one of the worst starts in the league, losing nine of their first 11 games and only scoring points in three of them. As the season has progressed though, the Capitals have improved greatly and have found their way out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference and moved themselves into first place in the very weak Southeast. The Capitals have improved many different areas of their game, but nothing has contributed more to this newfound end-of-year success than the play of winger Alexander Ovechkin.

Ovechkin has been with the Capitals for seven seasons now, and when he arrived, everyone in the NHL knew that he was going to be something special. Ovechkin was a big boy, at 6’3, 230 pounds, so he did not get checked off the puck easily. Ovechkin was not intimidated by any player and, even though he was a winger set to play on the top lines in the NHL, he let everyone know that he wasn’t afraid to take the body and throw down from time to time. On top of that, people soon discovered that he could put the puck in the net pretty well; in his first season with the Capitals in 2005-06, Ovechkin put up 52 goals and over 100 points and continued an upward progression of statistics for his first five years as a member of Washington (his best season coming in 2007-08 when he scored 65 goals and 112 points).

However, after his first five years people began to think that Ovechkin might have lost his touch. In the 2010-11 season, Ovechkin had a career low of 32 goals and 85 points and did not score in the double-digits in power play goals for the first time in his NHL career. Ovechkin was very cocky and some people, like myself, might argue that his attitude gets the better of him sometimes. This was evident last season when Ovechkin’s numbers dipped again to only 65 points; he seemed to play at a level much lower than he is used to playing because he supposedly did not like his coach and the way he played him. This got people talking about how Ovechkin was a bit of a loose cannon, that, although he was an amazing scorer, his attitude had gotten in the way of his playing ability and that he was just not the same player he was a few years ago.

Well, Ovechkin has certainly been silencing the haters this year. Ovechkin only had eight goals (five on the power play) in the first two months of the season when the Capitals were struggling to win games. Since then he has scored 19 goals (nine of them on the power play) in a month and a half, and now the Capitals are doing very well for themselves. Ovechkin now finds himself near the top of the leaderboard in goals scored, much like he did a few years ago when he was scoring 90 plus points per season with relative ease.

It appears that Ovechkin’s play has also boosted the entire Capitals’ team play this year. When Ovechkin is scoring and seeing the puck well, other players around him follow suit and they too rediscover their scoring touch. With only a handful of games left to play, Ovechkin and the Capitals have gotten hot at just the right time and are in a very good position to take the three seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs start in just a couple of weeks.

So, the key to the Washington Capitals’ success is very simple: Alexander Ovechkin.