Ovechkin says it’s time for Capitals to ‘take a big step’
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Alex Ovechkin has heard enough.
Enough questions about windows of opportunity being wide open – or starting to close – for his Washington Capitals. Enough bold proclamations about how this is the season they’re going to set aside their pattern of playoff pratfalls. Enough chatter about why things went wrong in the past but won’t this time around.
Or so he says.
”Every year, we talk about, `This team can do something.’ I think right now, it’s not (for) talking. We have to do it,” Ovechkin said. ”It’s 10 years. We have to move forward and take a big step.”
During his decade in the NHL, the Russian wing has piled up all sorts of personal accolades. He’s got the 50-goal seasons, six in all. He’s got the trio of MVP awards. His team has been quite successful during the regular season in that span, too. What Ovechkin never has done since joining the Capitals is make it past the second round of the playoffs.
That’s where the club’s 2014-15 season stopped, after Washington wasted a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers.
”I hope this year is going to be much better,” Ovechkin said, ”for me personally and for the team, as well.”
At some point, the question about Ovechkin will become how much longer he can keep scoring at will while playing his hard-hitting style.
The questions already are out there about when – or even whether – he and the Capitals can finally have some serious postseason success.
”He’s gone through a lot of things here,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”He was a young phenom, to a solid veteran, to a great leader, to one of the best goal scorers and dynamic players that fill the seats night-in and night-out that the game has known. So I think the next step for him is to try to find that ring.”
Here are some other things to know about the Capitals this season:
YEAR 2: Trotz is entering his second season in charge, and there is a sense that the systems, schemes and style that all were so new to the players is now second-nature for those who remain. He instituted a ”heavy” sort of play that was, in theory, geared toward the playoffs, but left Washington done before the conference finals, as usual. ”There’s a strong base that we can build from,” general manager Brian MacLellan said, ”and we should be a better team.”
EVERYDAY HOLTBY: Braden Holtby got a $30.5 million, five-year contract after his 72 starts led NHL goalies last season and his 2.22 goals-against average ranked fourth among those with at least 40 appearances. He has no interest in more rest. None at all. ”Obviously, I’d like to play every game,” Holtby said, ”but it’s whatever benefits the team the most.”
OVERLOOKED BACKSTROM: Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin comprise as dangerous a 1-2 punch as any team in the league has. Backstrom led the NHL with 60 assists in 2014-15 and yet, dynamic as he is on an annual basis, has never participated in an All-Star game. He’s coming off hip surgery and could miss the start of the season.
GAME 7 STRUGGLES: If the Capitals make the playoffs, as expected, and if they wind up in a Game 7, as they almost always seem to, there will be endless conversation about the team’s problems in those make-or-break contests – and endless insistence by Trotz and players that what happened in the past doesn’t matter. Last season’s elimination by the Rangers made the Capitals 3-6 in Game 7s since Ovechkin and Backstrom arrived in Washington.
NEW FACES: MacLellan’s two main offseason additions were forwards T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, and make no mistake: They were brought in precisely because of how well both have done in high-pressure situations. Oshie, acquired from St. Louis in a trade, was a shootout star for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics; Williams, a free agent signed to a $6.5 million, two-year contract, is 7-0 in Game 7s with 14 points and has played on three Stanley Cup champions. ”I just know from St. Louis falling short every year, year after year, it’s tough. It wears on you,” Oshie said. ”And hopefully these guys … used that to fire them into this year.”
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