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.
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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.
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.