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What Has Happened to Alex Ovechkin?: A Fan’s Take
As a lifelong Capitals fan, I have become prone to seeing slumps. I have seen team slumps that lasted years and playoff slumps that ended seasons. One thing I thought I would never see though was a prolonged Alexander Ovechkin slump. Now I am not talking about a five or ten game drought. I am talking about a full season and then some. It is clear to me that the Great 8 is simply not the same player. The question is: why?
The popular view is that the game has adapted to his style of play. Watching the broadcast of games on CSN Washington, Craig Laughlin equates his problems to the new defensive style being used against him. Defensemen are now stepping up, with a back checking forward closing him off from behind. Oh Please, I don't buy that nonsense for a second. This is not some new thing the league discovered five years after he broke in the NHL. It was tried before this with not much success.
Is it injury that is curtailing Alex Ovechkin(notes)? Well I like all the other Caps fans heard last year about the possible knee and wrist injuries, combined with his supposed lack of physical conditioning. Again I play down this as the role as well. Through his career, Ovie has played full tilt every second of every shift he has played. I've seen him play through broken fingers and knee on knee hits that would sideline other players for weeks. Though it might have held his numbers down a bit last year, it is not the reason his scoring has curtailed.
Perhaps it is a more promising reason like the fact that he is sacrificing for the team, getting other guys more involved. With better talent on the team, he no longer has to be the one man gang, as this season's 5-0 record indicates. He is not scoring, but the team is winning so everything is right with the world and we should not worry. I am sorry, but I don't buy that stuff for a moment either. If this team is to win it all, Ovie has to be scoring and leading this team. Otherwise this team will be average again come playoff time.
People do not want to listen to me, but I know the secret as to why Alexander Ovechkin is ordinary right now. It is because of a few years ago when he was suspended for a hit. Before that, the man played with fire, passion, and aggression every night. He was not just a scoring machine; he was an all around terror on skates. People did not want to get in his way for fear of being destroyed. Since that suspension, he has not been the same.
His hits are measured and careful. He still throws his weight around, but not like before. It has become easier for teams to crowd him because he fears discipline should one of his checks not be up to the league's liking. The fact of the matter is that the NHL, in their zest to protect players from injury, has tempered one of its greatest stars. If Ovechkin is to reach the pinnacle of his craft once again, he is going to have to turn it up full speed again and not worry about the consequences. Only then will Capitals fans like me get the Great 8 back and the league can go back to fearing his shadow.
John Atchison was born in Caps country with ice in his veins and the Capitals in his heart. He has been known to send his kids running out of a room when he shouts, "He shoots and scores".
Source: CSN Washington
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