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What We Learned: Despite flashes of old, Alex Ovechkin is now predictable and pedestrian

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

A lot was made about the Washington Capitals' first four games of the season, and not just because they didn't win any of them. The defense was bad, allowing 17 goals. The offense was worse, scoring just eight.

And in the middle of it all was Alex Ovechkin, who labored through those first four games with a carousel of linemates that included everyone from Nick Backstrom and Marcus Johansson to Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle. All he had to show for it at the end of that was one measly assist, a secondary helper for Matt Hendricks in a 4-2 loss to Winnipeg.

"What," everyone wondered, "is wrong with Alex Ovechkin?"

It's become pretty common knowledge at this point that no one's ever going to put him up for the Hart again in his career barring some sort of miraculous turnaround, and even his staunchest supporters have to wonder what, exactly, happened to the guy who averaged 55 goals a year over the first five season he spent in the NHL. Not that his 38 goals last season is anything to sniff at, particularly given how much Dale Hunter seemed to delight in not giving him much of a chance offensively, and his time on ice per game dropped below 20 minutes.

It seemed the hope was that bringing in a new coach like Adam Oates, who was a power play specialist as a player and therefore knows a thing or two about juicing offense, would return Ovechkin to the form that allowed him to light up the league. But it wasn't until yesterday's game with hapless Buffalo that Ovechkin and Oates finally found that old magic for a second.

On a power play early in the third period, Mike Green fed him right in his wheelhouse at the top of the circle, and the shot was vintage Ovechkin. Low, hard, perfectly placed, unstoppable. This was the Ovechkin we want to remember, and visions of him firing home perfect one-timers from the Stamkos Spot is something most hockey fans would welcome as it danced through their heads. There was a lot of that kind of comment on Twitter as soon as the puck rippled the back of the net.

The sad fact, though, is that these flashes of olden days Alex Ovechkin seems to be just about all we'll ever get from the guy any more.

He can still hammer home one-timers every once in a while, but the Ovechkin we have now is far more pedestrian.

He's 27 now. Statistically, it's pretty safe to say he's never going to produce like he did before. Move him to the right wing or back to the left all you want, but there's simply not a magical cure to make him score 50 a year any more.

Yes, his 38 goals last season was still good for fifth in the league, and it must be stated again that there were indeed mitigating factors, but at some point the hockey world has to stop talking about Ovechkin as being the kind of elite player he once was, right?

There's nothing wrong with not topping 40 goals because most guys don't do it, but this is now officially the paradigm for the rest of Ovechkin's career, isn't it?

So the question becomes whether everyone's perception of Ovechkin catches up with reality, and when that happens. He's not worth the money he's being paid these days, and in another year or three it's going to be interesting to see just how bad that contract is. He'll be the face of the Capitals for as long as he's on the team, and one suspects that will be a considerable amount of time, but all this sitting around and clock-watching while people wait for the surge seems a colossal waste of time.

Going four games straight without a goal to start the season is the norm for Ovechkin, and shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's watching Caps games these days.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Bruce Boudreau trotted out Viktor Fasth for his first-ever game on the second night of a back-to-back and the rookie picked up his first win, stopping 19 of 21 and then blanking the Predators in the shootout. Fasth, by the way, is a rookie in experience only, given that's he's already 30 years old.

Boston Bruins: You know that stat now about how more stuff gets printed every day than mankind printed in its entirety prior to 1900, or whatever? That's how I feel about the number of fawning articles about Dougie Hamilton that will be printed by the end of this season. The kid is terribly good, but c'mon now.

Buffalo Sabres: Headed into Sunday's game sans Thomas Vanek, the Sabres had a lot of uncomfortable questions to answer about their heavily mediocre start.

Calgary Flames: The Flames finally got a win on Saturday night, beating Edmonton 4-3 at home, behind another crackerjack performance from… Lee Stempniak? That can't be right. What do you mean he's tied for the team lead in points with 3-2-5? Jeez.

Carolina Hurricanes: This standard gamer of the Hurricanes' Friday night sweep-completing win over Buffalo contained an interesting tidbit: The Hurricanes have made a trade with every team in the league except the Sabres.

Chicago Blackhawks: I feel like this is the Blue Jacketsest goal to concede, maybe ever. Oh and it was the game-winner.

Colorado Avalanche: The good news out of a 4-0 loss to San Jose is at least when Brad Stuart clobbered Gabriel Landeskog in the neutral zone, the sophomore captain didn't get a concussion. That's, like, the only good news though.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson to the IR with a lower-body injury. What is this gypsy curse Scott Howson seems to have brought on his team?

Dallas Stars: The Stars are already being pummeled by injuries, but Glen Gulutzan says that despite the shortened season, he won't rush anyone back. Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Kari Lehtonen and Christopher Nilstorp were all at less than 100 percent for Saturday's game with St. Louis. The two forwards were scratched, and Lehtonen was supposed to get the night off, but had to come into the game when Nilstorp went down to injury. Looks like it could be troubling, too, because the team already called up Richard Bachman to replace him.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Hey that terrible Red Wings defense? It's not as bad as it used to be! Mike Babcock is now calling games in which they give up three goals "the best." Hoo boy.

Edmonton Oilers: "Youth Fuels Battle of Alberta." Because when you think Flames/Oilers, you think of all the great young players both have on the roster. For Edmonton there's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz and Taylor Hall. For Calgary there's… well. Hmm. Sven Baertschi. So yes, youth.

Florida Panthers: Following the 7-1 beating they caught at the hands of the Flyers, the Panthers have been outscored 18-3 since opening night. Anyone who thought this team was gonna make the playoffs is a lunatic.

Los Angeles Kings: Wow the Kings actually won at hockey. However, their power play remains the worst in the NHL at 0 for 23. So, room for improvement it seems.

Minnesota Wild: Did you know Mike Yeo thinks Ryan Suter is a good hockey player? It's true. He said so.

Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty is out three to four weeks after an emergency appendectomy. He better not go to any movie theaters during his time out of the lineup.

Nashville Predators: Speaking of injuries, Patric Hornqvist is out indefinitely after picking up a leg injury. Huge blow to Nashville's already-anemic offense.

New Jersey Devils: Can't tell you how much I loved the pass from Marek Zidlicky to Ilya Kovalchuk in overtime on Friday. It was magnificent.

New York Islanders: Lubomir Visnovsky's agent says the defenseman will report to the Islanders by Feb. 11. Believe it when you see it, kids.

New York Rangers: Marian Gaborik is straight-up killing it this season. Five goals in as many games, and no one seems to be able to stop him.

Ottawa Senators: Man, when Robin Lehner finally gets a full-time NHL gig, it's gonna be really hard to beat the Senators. Kid turned in another phenomenal performance in the AHL on Saturday, in a season already full of them. In 23 games this season, he as a 1.80 GAA and .948 save percentage, which isn't even fair.

Philadelphia Flyers: Yeah, the Flyers scored seven goals on 26 shots against the Panthers Saturday night, which is a lot of goals on not a lot of shots. A big portion of that shooting percentage comes from Matt Read, though, because he shot the puck three times and it went in on every one.

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 171 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. In the meantime, here's Shane Doan laying out Dustin Brown and then dropping Mike Richards in an ensuing fight.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Effort helps teams win hockey games. This late breaking news brought to you by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who prior to last night's game with Ottawa lost to Toronto and Winnipeg by a combined score of 9-2.

San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau is the second player in NHL history to score more than one goal in each of the first four games of the season, tying a record set by Cy Denneny in 1917-18. I'm sure he'll keep shooting at 40 percent all season long.

St. Louis Blues: Welcome back to the National Hockey League, Wade Redden.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Finally, people actually like Matt Carle instead of blaming him for every goal the Flyers allowed last year.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Yes, it's "Blame Phil Kessel" time. The best time.

Vancouver Canucks: Actually, maybe "There's Still a Goaltending Controversy" time is the best time. It's hard to keep it all straight.

Washington Capitals: Through their first four games, the Caps took a whopping 25 minor penalties. That includes six that led to three 5-on-3s, and their opponents scored on every single one.

Winnipeg Jets: Nik Antropov has been very good for the Jets this year. Don't let the one assist in his first four games fool you.

Play of the Weekend

I think this Eberle kid has a future in this league.

Gold Star Award

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Marian Gaborik please stop doing this to everyone. It's making them sad.

Minus of the Weekend

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"With a deadline looming for prospective Phoenix Coyotes buyer Greg Jamison to purchase the team from the National Hockey League, Glendale officials have no idea whether he’ll complete the deal."

He has until Thursday. More Mike Sunnucks lies!!!!!

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "mindfly" really doesn't want that improving Detroit defense to get ahead of itself.

To Edmonton:
Kyle Quincey
To Detroit:
Magnus Pääjärvi

Signoff
That's my purse! I don't know you!

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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