The Washington Capitals showed some life during Saturday’s 4-3 victory at Washington, but once again Alex Ovechkin had a quiet game.
Ovechkin entered the season’s final four weeks tied for 51st in the league in points and tied for 19th in goals. He is on pace to finish the season with 62 points and 33 goals.
This is sadly mediocre production from a former 65-goal scorer who scored 100 or more points four times in his NHL career.
What’s up with this guy?
The Washington Post went looking for answers. The newspaper explored the following theories about his decline:
Opponents are doing a better job limiting his rushes and containing his goal-scoring skills.
His supporting cast in Washington has been in flux. Playmaking forward Nicklas Backstrom is sidelined by post-concussion syndrome. Offensive defenseman Mike Green declined precipitously, largely due to injuries.
Former coach Bruce Boudreau was forced to implement a more defensive style. When attempts to ignite the offense this season failed, defensive-minded Dale Hunter replaced him as coach.
The Capitals’ team chemistry has deteriorated for a host of reasons. The core players of the team are no longer a tightly-knit group.
The carefree, freewheeling Ovechkin has given way to a more brooding and cautious model. The old Ovechkin flew around the ice with great verve. Today’s Ovechkin isn’t having much fun at all. Hockey is business for him now – a joyless enterprise.
Ovechkin doesn’t work as hard as he used to. His conditioning has suffered and has seemingly lost a step or two on the ice.
Washington’s team struggles have weighed heavily on him, as has the poor performance of Russian national team in key international competitions.
Ovechkin’s comments to Comcast SportsNet broadcaster Al Koken during an in-game interview were telling: “It’s not a disco right now. It’s a very serious moment for our team.”
After the game, he offered reporters this assessment: “Lots of people said, we have to have fun. Yeah, we have to have fun. But have fun — it’s not like laughing and it’s not joking around. It’s serious — serious fun, you know. You have to be concentrating and when you have opportunity to smile, you smile. But most of the time in the locker room, it’s very serious.”
So what do the Capitals do now?
Another coaching change is quite possible. So are trades to shake up the core group of players. Perhaps new leadership will jar Ovechkin back on track.
Or maybe it is just up to Alex to get himself back to where he must be. The current Ovechkin isn’t doing his team or himself much good.