Where does Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin rank among top athletes in all of sports? Unfortunately, lower than the 25 year old great would like at this moment. Despite his two MVP’s, Ovechkin’s Caps have left the Stanley Cup playoffs far too early to rank him among the best athletes in their respective sports.
ESPN columnist and Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon penned a great article about Ovechkin’s Cup chase and the change the Capitals have undergone to win it all this season. Wilbon points out that Ovechkin’s goal total went from 50 to 32, Alex Semin’s feel from 40 to 28, Nicklas Backstroms went from 33 to 18 and Brooks Laich’s fell from 25 to 16. It wasn’t as though this happened by accident, “it was by design,” Wilbon writes.
Individual numbers don’t matter to Ovechkin. Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis was proud of Ovechkin for embracing Washington’s new defensive style of play in 2011.
“[Ovechkin] did something remarkable,” Leonsis added, “in that he’d been saying individual stats weren’t a motivator for him anymore, that he’d already won MVPs and scoring titles. When a system changes and it affects the star’s stats, the star can break the system and he can break the coach. But Alex totally embraced the new system. He said, ‘I’ll do whatever we need to win in the playoffs.'”
Ovechkin’s successes or failures this go around will most definitely be tied to coach Bruce Boudreau. No one will be shipping Ovechkin out of town if Washington falls early in the postseason this year, but Boudreau is another story. Wilbon points out that Boudreau’s approach this year is simple for his team. “I do a whole lot of video presentation, including what you might call a ‘pump up’ video to get them excited … but I didn’t this year,” Boudreau said. “This is business right now. No frills. No movies about how great you are or anything else. Let’s just get to the nuts and bolts of it.”
The routine for Ovie is the same going into this year’s postseason. The Great Eight says he doesn’t feel the pressure and simply just wants to win the Cup. “I’m going to do the same thing. Pressure? No, I don’t feel any pressure at all,” Ovechkin said. “I feel the same as I do every year: I want to win the Cup.”
Check out Michael Wilbon’s column on ESPN.com, it’s a great piece to hold you over until the puck drops tonight at seven.