The Caps Have Ovi Left To Play For

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Alex Ovechkin would be a hockey legend even if he’d scored, like, 300 fewer goals. But now at 816 for his career, he might be closer to a savant. There’s simply no other way to last 18 years and 1,334 games through the physical demands of the NHL while remaining your team’s most important player that entire time. Even at age 37, the three dozen goals he’s scored in 60 games puts him on the edge of the league’s top 10, neck and neck with youths like Jack Hughes and Jason Robertson. Physically, he can’t compare with those guys anymore, but Ovi is still in the company of the game’s best, not only because he has a preternatural understanding of the fun stuff like scoring and hitting, but also because he possesses a deep acquired knowledge of how this game takes a toll on his body, and how best to mitigate it.

Both that brand of late-career greatness and the challenges facing his late-career Capitals were on display as Washington traveled to L.A. Monday night. The Caps, as a team, badly need some positive momentum after a February dominated by losses and injury woes. (Ovechkin took a rare bit of time away in that month due to the death of his father.) GM Brian MacLellan, however, sees it differently. Staring down the inevitable rebuild of the oldest team in the league, which hasn’t won a playoff series since its Cup in 2018, MacLellan sent several veteran expiring contracts to buyers in exchange for mostly picks, which he apparently hopes he can convert into younger players who will compliment his older core for at least a few years more. The official line is that the Caps are sacrificing their 2023 to try and improve their position in ’24 and ’25, but with key players that date back to the Cup squad, like Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov, suddenly gone from the locker room, morale is pretty low.

“We all know it’s a business,” Ovechkin said when the dust cleared. “But it’s a hard situation to lose friends and very good hockey players.”

On Monday, the Caps couldn’t improve upon what’s now the fifth-worst record in the East. Playing their third straight game in California (after two wins, actually), they started slow and jumbled and were lucky to get to the first intermission with the score still 0-0. A weird goal from Rasmus Sandin—an actual young deadline add from the Leafs—put the Caps on the board first, but the Kings broke through with two in the second, and with a buzzer-beating empty-netter they were able to win 4-2.

This was another solid performance to signal the Kings as a team that needs to be taken seriously out West, but even in a loss, I think it’s notable for the Ovechkin goal. Thanks to a couple of penalties early in the third that led to a five-on-three, the Caps had plenty of space with which to work their signature play—get the puck to Ovechkin at the top of the left circle and have him rip one. They tried it again and again in this stretch, and eventually, it worked.

Ovechkin’s constant, nearly stagnant…

Read More: The Caps Have Ovi Left To Play For 2023-03-07 17:41:00

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