Ovechkin knows 'it's all about me' this season - NBC Sports

Ovechkin knows 'it's all about me' this season
With Crosby's status still up in the air, Caps star knows he must return to form to lift NHL - and deliver first Cup to DC
Reuters
After scoring at least 50 goals in each of the three previous seasons, including 65 during the 2007-08 campaign, Washington's Alex Ovechkin lit the red lamp on a meager 32 occasions during the 2010-11 season.
October 6, 2011, 6:10 pm

To come back the following season cut, chiseled, and ready to wax the opposition.

Turns out, he wasn't the only one with this idea in mind.

Madame Tussauds, the famed wax sculpture museum, announced earlier this week that it would be unveiling a wax likeness of the Washington Capitals captain at its Washington, D.C. location.

Interestingly, he's just the second NHLer to be so honored, following in the wax drippings of the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky.

Notice anyone missing on that list?

The same guy who's been MIA from the NHL since the New Year?

We're talking Sidney Crosby, and while the Caps captain was being captured in wax, his Pittsburgh counterpart and foil for the title of the NHL's best and most talked-about performer remains captured in a fog.

With Crosby's regaining of his form remaining shrouded in mystery, it makes a return to form by Ovechkin mandatory - for the Capitals, to be contenders, and for the NHL to increase its relevance.

"It's time for Alex Ovechkin, one of the great players in the game, and one of the great hard workers in the game, to work with the intelligence that's necessary to be effective," said NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury. "To play within the system that the coaches are outlining."

Certainly, he'll need to be significantly better than he was last season. Ovechkin's 85-point output was the lowest of his six-season NHL career. After scoring at least 50 goals in each of the three previous seasons, including 65 during the 2007-08 campaign, Ovechkin lit the red lamp on a meager 32 occasions during 2010-11.

For the first time in his career, Ovechkin was nowhere to be found when the NHL doled out its season-ending awards.

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Scoring machine: Alexander Ovechkin in action

/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/110107_crosby_ovechkin.jpgAPGene J. PuskarThe Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, right, and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby take part in the outdoor Winter Classic game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Jan. 1, 2011./MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/110107_ovechkin_winter_classic_2.jpgReutersDAVID DENOMAOvechkin, left, and Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz get invoved in a tussle during the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh on Jan. 1, 2011./MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/110107_ovechkin_winter_classic.jpgReutersDAVID DENOMAOvechkin shoots against Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2011./MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/110107_ovechkin_winter_classic_4.jpgReutersJASON COHNOvechkin, center, celebrates after teammate Mike Knuble scored a goal against Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2011./MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/110107_ovechkin_winter_classic_3.jpgGetty ImagesJamie SquireOvechkin salutes fans after Washington's 3-1 victory over host Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2011./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100410_Ovechkin1.jpgNHLI via Getty ImagesMitchell LaytonOvechkin, left, celebrates his 50th goal and Nicklas Backstrom's 100th point after a game against the Atlanta Thrashers on April 9, 2010 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100410_Ovechkin3.jpgNHLI via Getty ImagesMitchell LaytonOvechkin celebrates his team's first goal during a game against the Atlanta Thrashers./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100410_Ovechkin2.jpgNHLI via Getty ImagesMitchell LaytonNHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly presents Ovechkin with the Presidents' Trophy before a game against the Atlanta Thrashers on April 9, 2010. The trophy is honor of the Capitals having the league's best record./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100302_Ovechkin1.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin (R) of Russia skates next to Sidney Crosby of Canada in the third period during the quarterfinal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090114_SidneyCrosby/100302_Crosby6.jpgGetty ImagesAlex LiveseyOvechkin shakes hands with Crosby after Canada's 7-3 victory of Russia in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100302_Ovechkin2.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesCris BouroncleOvechkin sits on the bench during the quarterfinal loss to Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100302_Ovechkin3.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin is seen after the men's preliminary game between Russia and the Czech Republic on day 10 of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100302_Ovechkin4.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin celebrates after Evgeni Malkin scored a third period goal during the preliminary game between Russia and the Czech Republic./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100302_Ovechkin5.jpgAPGene J. PuskarOvechkin checks the Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr to the ice in the third period of a preliminary round game./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100302_Ovechkin6.jpgASSOCIATED PRESSMarcio SanchezWashington Capitals and Team Russia player Ovechkin answers questions during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100209_Ovechkin6.jpgGetty ImagesAl BelloOvechkin of the Washington Capitals poses with his Team Russia Olympic Jersey on Jan. 30, 2010 in Arlington, Va./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100209_Ovechkin1.jpgNHLI via Getty ImagesMitchell LaytonWashington Capitals fans celebrate Ovechkin's hat trick during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 7, 2010 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100209_Ovechkin2.jpgNHLI via Getty ImagesMitchell LaytonOvechkin takes a shot during a game against the Atlanta Thrashers on Feb. 5, 2010 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100209_Ovechkin3.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacDan Girardi of the New York Rangers commits a holding penalty on Ovechkin during the third period on Feb. 4, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 6-5./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100209_Ovechkin4.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin smiles against the New York Rangers on Feb. 4, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. /NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/100209_Ovechkin5.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacTom Poti (left) celebrates his third period goal against the New York Rangers with Ovechkin on Feb. 4, 2010 at Madison Square Garden./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin.jpgGetty ImagesAbelimagesNicklas Backstrom (left), Alex Ovechkin (middle) and Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals celebrate Ovechkin's goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during on Dec. 12, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin2.jpgGetty ImagesGreg FiumeOvechkin (L) and Alexander Semin talk before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Verizon Center on Nov. 1, 2009 in Washington, DC./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin3.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin returns to the bench following a goal by Alexander Semin (not shown) against the Phildelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center on Oct. 6, 2009 in Philadelphia./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin4.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin (middle) celebrates his second period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks with teammates Nicklas Backstrom (19) and Alexander Semin during their preseason game on Sept. 23, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin5.jpgEthan MillerOvechkin accepts the Hart Memorial Trophy during the 2009 NHL Awards at The Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resort on June 18, 2009 in Las Vegas./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin6.jpgGetty ImagesEthan MillerOvechkin is escorted by showgirls as he arrives at the 2009 NHL Awards at the Palms Casino Resort on June 18, 2009 in Las Vegas./NBCSports/Components/Slideshows-NBC_sports/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/091217_Ovechkin7.jpgGetty ImagesEthan Miller(L-R) Former NHL player Mark Napier, Washington Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin and San Jose Sharks center Jeremy Roenick participate in the NHL Charity Shootout at the World Series of Poker at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 17, 2009. /MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/ss-090620-ovechkin-01.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettThe Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin poses with the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Hart Trophy and the Maurice Richard Trophy following the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 18, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090416_NHLPlayoffs/Photos/090514_CrosbyOvechkin.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin, left, and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins shake hands after Pittsburgh's 6-2 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 13, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090514_Ovechkin1.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin leaves the ice following a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 13, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090514_Ovechkin2.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin hits Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 13, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090507_Ovechkin2.jpgAPGene J. PuskarWashington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates his first-period goal with Sergei Fedorov in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 6, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090507_Ovechkin3.jpgAPGene J. PuskarOvechkin sits on the bench during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 6, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090507_Ovechkin1.jpgAPNick WassOvechkin celebrates after scoring his third goal of the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 4, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090507_Ovechkin4.jpgAPPablo Martinez MonsivaisPittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby looks on as workers collect hats thrown on the ice following Ovechkin's third goal of the night in the third period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 4, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090504_Ovechkin1.jpgGetty ImagesLen RedkolesAlex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals skates past Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 2, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090504_Ovechkin2.jpgGetty ImagesLen RedkolesAlex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals battles Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 2, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090429_Ovechkin.jpgGetty ImagesLen RedkolesAlex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals shakes the hand of Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers after defeating him during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090429_Ovechkin2.jpgGetty ImagesBruce Bennett(L-R) Alexaner Semin, Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green of the Washington Capitals celebrate their goal at 16:44 of the second period against the New York Rangers during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090429_Ovechkin3.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin skates against the New York Rangers during Game Six of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 5-3./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090429_Ovechkin4.jpgGetty ImagesLen RedkolesOvechkin skates the puck past Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090429_Ovechkin5.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin skates against the New York Rangers during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090322_Ovechkin1.jpgAPMike CarlsonWashington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin shoots past Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Lukas Krajicek to score his 50th goal of the season on March 19, 2009, in Tampa, Fla./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090322_Ovechkin4.jpgAPMike CarlsonOvechkin celebrates with his stick after scoring his 50th goal of the season during the first period on March 19, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. /NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090322_Ovechkin2.jpgAPMike CarlsonOvechkin is congratulated by teammates Mike Green (52) and Shaone Morrisonn (26) after scoring his 50th goal of the season./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090322_Ovechkin3.jpgAPMike CarlsonOvechkin acknowledges the crowd after scoring his 50th goal of the season during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 19, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090209_Ovechkin4.jpgAPNick WassOvechkin, center, celebrates his 200th NHL goal with Alexander Semin, left, and Mike Green against the Los Angeles Kings in Washington on Feb. 5, 2009. Ovechkin is the fourth player in league history to score 200 goals in his first four seasons, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090209_Ovechkin3.jpgAPRyan RemiorzOvechkin beats Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo for the game-clinching goal in a shootout as the Eastern Conference won the NHL All-Star Game 12-11 in Montreal on Jan. 25, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090209_Ovechkin2.jpgAPRyan RemiorzOvechkin celebrates thrills Montreal fans with his goal in the Skills competition during the NHL All-Star weekend on Jan. 24, 2009./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090209_Ovechkin1.jpgAPRyan RemiorzPittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, left, jokes around with Ovechkin during the NHL Superskills competition in Montreal, Jan. 24, 2009. The incident quieted critics who said the two Russian stars no longer get along off the ice./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin1.jpgGetty ImagesChristian PetersenOvechkin in action against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 19, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin3.jpgGetty ImagesChristian PetersenOvechkin in action during a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 19, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin5.jpgGetty ImagesClaus AndersenOvechkin poses with the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Art Ross Trophy, and the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy during the NHL Awards Show on June 12, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin6.jpgGetty Images for NHLBruce BennettOvechkin signs for fans as he arrives for the NHL Awards Show on June 12, 2008 in Toronto, Canada./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin4.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin poses with the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Art Ross Trophy and the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy during a portrait session on June 12, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin10.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesTimothy A. ClaryOvechkin celebrates after Russia scored the winning goal in overtime against Canada in the gold medal game of the World Hockey Championships at Quebec City, Quebec on May 18, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin11.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesTimothy A. ClaryOvechkin kisses his medal after Russia's win at the 2008 World Hockey Championships./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin12.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesDavid BoilyOvechkin lays on the ice Russia's gold medal victory at the 2008 World Hockey Championships./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin7.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesAlexander NemenovOvechkin, right, and fellow Russian national team player Ilya Kovalchuk speak during a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, not pictured, at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 20, 2008 to celebrate Russia's World Hockey Championship gold medal win./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin13.jpgGetty ImagesElsaOvechkin checks Finland's Antti-Jussi Niemi during the 2008 World Hockey Championships./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin14.jpgGetty ImagesRick StewartOvechkin lines up in position prior to a faceoff against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 30, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin15.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin shoots the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 6, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin16.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin shoots the puck past Philadelphia's Lasse Kukkonen on Nov. 23, 2007./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin17.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesVladimir RodionovRussian President Vladimir Putin, left, chats with Russia's national team coach Vyacheslav Bykov, center, and Ovechkin during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 22, 2007./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin18.jpgGetty ImagesDave SandfordOvechkin shoots against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6, 2007./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin19.jpgGetty ImagesNorman Y. LonoOvechkin tapes his stick during a game against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 24, 2007./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin2.jpgGetty ImagesChristian PetersenOvechkin shoots the puck against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 19, 2008./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin20.jpgGetty ImagesBruce BennettOvechkin during the 2007 NHL All-Star Skills contest on Jan. 23, 2007 in Dallas./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin21.jpgDave SandfordOvechkin skates with the puck during the 2007 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 24, 2007 in Dallas./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin23.jpgGetty ImagesDave SandfordOvechkin skates out onto the ice during introductions to the 2007 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 24, 2007 in Dallas./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin24.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin helps build a structure during the Habitat for Humanity event at the American Airlines Center on Jan. 23, 2007 in Dallas./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin25.jpgGetty ImagesJeff GrossOvechkin poses for a portrait for the 2007 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 22, 2007 in Dallas./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin26.jpgGetty ImagesJeff VinnickOvechkin, left, with Wayne Gretzky, right, during the 2006 NHL Draft held on June 24, 2006 in Vancouver, Canada./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin27.jpgGetty ImagesJeff VinnickOvechkin at the NHL Awards Show on June 22, 2006 in Vancouver, Canada./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin28.jpgGetty ImagesJeff VinnickOvechkin, left, and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby arrive at the NHL Awards Show on June 22, 2006 in Vancouver, Canada./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin29.jpgGetty ImagesDoug PensingerOvechkin celebrates his goal for Russia during World Hockey Championships against the Czech Republic on May 18, 2006 in Riga, Latvia./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin30.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesAlexander NemenovOvechkin shoots on Slovakia's goal during the World Hockey Championships on May 10, 2006 in Riga, Latvia./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin31.jpgGetty ImagesAl BelloOvechkin celebrates a goal for Russia against Canada's Martin Brodeur during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin32.jpgGetty ImagesElsaOvechkin, left, and the United States' Chris Chelios clash during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin33.jpgGetty ImagesMitchell LaytonOvechkin celebrates after completing a hat trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 30, 2005./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin34.jpgGetty ImagesMitchell LaytonWashington's Ovechkin is introduced at a press conference on Sept. 1, 2004 at the MCI Center in Washington, DC./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin35.jpgGetty ImagesDave SandfordOvechkin after he was picked first overall by Washington in the 2004 NHL Draft on June 26, 2004 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin36.jpgGetty ImagesJeff VinnickOvechkin warms up before Russia's gold medal game against Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships on Jan. 4, 2005 in Grand Forks, N.D./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin37.jpgAFP/Getty ImagesJoe KlamarOvechkin, center, and Alexei Yashin, right, pose with their bronze medals after the World Hockey Championships on May 15, 2005 in Vienna./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin38.jpgGetty ImagesJeff VinnickOvechkin, left, and Canada's Sidney Crosby shake hands after Canada's gold medal win at the World Junior Hockey Championships on Jan. 4, 2005./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin39.jpgGetty ImagesScott HalleranOvechkin, left, Evgeni Malkin, center, and Alvaro Montoya watch the action prior to the start of the USA vs. Canada baseball game at the Durham Bulls Park during the NHL Entry Draft on June 24, 2004./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin40.jpgGetty ImagesScott HalleranOvechkin takes batting practice prior to the start of the USA vs. Canada baseball game at the Durham Bulls Park during the NHL Entry Draft on June 24, 2004./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin41.jpgGetty ImagesScott HalleranOvechkin throws out one of the first pitches prior to the start of the USA vs. Canada baseball game at the Durham Bulls Park during the NHL Entry Draft on June 24, 2004./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin42.jpgGetty ImagesJim McisaacOvechkin skates against the New York Islanders on Dec. 22, 2007./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin8.jpgGetty Images for NHLBruce BennettOvechkin and his guest arrive for the 2008 NHL Awards Show on June 12, 2008 in Toronto, Canada./NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin9.jpgGetty ImagesElsaOvechkin celebrates after Russia's gold medal victory in the World Hockey Championships on May 18, 2008 in Quebec City, Canada.More NHL coverageMore sports coverageMore slideshowsembss1falseall51

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Alexander the Great

Take a look at Capitals star and two-time MVP Alexander Ovechkin

/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/100915_ovechkin.jpg1100056300false#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com

Jim Young

X90065

Reuters

Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey series in Washington April 23, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

Image: Washington Capitals Ovechkin celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during Game 5 in Washington

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/NBCSports/Interactives and Slideshows/NHL/ss_090206_Ovechkin/090123_Ovechkin14.jpg1100061400#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.comRick StewartGetty Images North AmericaGetty Images2008 Getty ImagesBUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 30: Alexander Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals lines up in position prior to a faceoff during their NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 30, 2008 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. The Capitals defeated the Sabres 4-2. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)Washington Capitals v Buffalo SabresNHLSpoHKN SPO83372593RKS_D060781042.JPGBuffaloNYUnited States6336619200000000001Pfalsefalse

/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/100915_ovechkin.jpg1100056300false#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com

Jim Young

X90065

Reuters

Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey series in Washington April 23, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

Image: Washington Capitals Ovechkin celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during Game 5 in Washington

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With the NBA season in dry dock, and a return of basketball looking even more doubtful than a quick recovery by Crosby, such realities are not acceptable in the hockey world, which is being presented with a golden opportunity to increase its foothold among the American viewing audience.

The man who will be asked to carry the National Hockey League on his shoulders this season seems to understand and accept the load he'll be required to take on, both with the Capitals, and the league as a whole. He worked tirelessly this summer with Capitals strength and conditioning coach Mike Nemish, shedding nine pounds from his frame. Before training camp even opened, Ovechkin took the ice with Washington's prospects at rookie camp, setting a business-like tone for the season.

The pressure is on, and Ovechkin intends to thrive in the spotlight.

"It's all about me," Ovechkin said. "If I have a chance to score goals, I have to score it. If I didn't score it, people are going to say, 'Okay, he's not scoring. He's not that good anymore' And if I start scoring again like that, I'm going to make a point streak like 10 games, everything's going to be back and I'm not worried about it."

Curiously, the newest endorsement deal garnered via Ovechkin's quirky personality and gap-toothed smile is with the candy bar Mr. Big, the same chocolate treat that Gretzky stumped for during his heyday.

Appropriate indeed, for if the NHL is to get bigger, Ovechkin must also be its Mr. Big.

The comparisons between Ovechkin, the top pick in the 2004 NHL entry draft, and Crosby, the first overall selection in 2005, were inevitable from the get-go, driven even more by the fact that both men broke into the NHL until the 2005-06 season, due to the lockout the scuttled the 2004-05 campaign.

In a battle of personalities, the effervescent Ovechkin is the clear-cut winner over the more stoic, keep-to-himself Crosby.

"He wants to win, too and he'll do other things, like blocking shots, in order to make that happen."

And Crosby?

"Sid's the same. He's got a tireless work ethic and that's contagious. He wants to win. He's willing to pay the price, to do anything it takes to take care of that first," Cooke said. "It's different, but they still have the same effect on their dressing room, their group."

Like all great sporting rivalries, whether it be Magic and Bird on the hardwood, Brady and Manning on the gridiron, or Nadal and Federer on the court, the ultimate decision maker in determining who's the best is generally measured by the number of titles won.

Ovechkin holds a significant edge in playoff heartbreak. The Capitals have reigned as the NHL's next legendary team in waiting for some years now, and as the great philosopher Homer Simpson once noted, "The waiting game sucks."

"The Montreal Canadiens, when they were run by Frank Selke and Sam Pollock, always used to tell their players one thing before their season started," NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire said. "Win your last game on home ice. Chances are, if you do that, you're going to win the Stanley Cup."

In three of the past four springs, the Capitals have lost Game 7 of a playoff series on home ice.

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Offseason additions appear to have strengthened Washington's resolve. Forwards Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern and Troy Brouwer bring grit to the lineup, the latter a Stanley Cup winner with Chicago in 2010. They've added veteran strength on defense (Roman Hamrlik) and in goal (Tomas Vokoun).

"I sure like what they did over the summer," NBC Sports analyst Mike Emrick said. "I think at playoff time, a guy like Joel Ward, and another like Troy Brouwer, will make a big difference. These are two hard, passionate guys up front.

"Passion comes to the fore at playoff time, and maybe that's maybe one of the failings that the Caps have had at playoff time. They are a very well-constructed team, but that passion level needs to be higher come playoff time."

Passion exudes from Ovechkin's every pore, but like Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Crosby before him, one player can't get the job done without a supporting cast. For Washington to take that next step, players such as forwards Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green need to loom with a much larger postseason presence.

"They've put all these other pieces in place," Milbury said. "It's primed to go in the right direction, but at its core, a player like Ovechkin, and his sidekick Semin, have to play with passion, with intelligence within the system, and I think that's easy to do for Ovechkin, but Semin needs to get his feet wet every single night."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who certainly figures to be on the hot seat should his team fail to deliver the goods yet again, thinks it's far too early to write his team's epitaph as a Stanley Cup contender.

"Nobody in our core's over 26," Boudreau said. "They're all competitors. They all want to win. We all want to win the Cup.

"They'll be ready to go. They all believe eventually that they're going to win."

The Capitals won't go without Ovechkin firing on all cylinders.

Minus Sid The Kid, the NHL won't grow without Ovechkin delivering the goods.

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