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End of season review: Alex Ovechkin

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End of season review: Alex Ovechkin

Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Alex Ovechkin

Position: Left Wing

Shoots: Right

Age: 29 [turns 30 Sep. 17]

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 235

Games: 81

Goals: 53

Assists: 28

Points: 81

Penalty minutes: 58

Plus-Minus: Plus-10

Average Ice Time: 20:19

Playoff games: 14

Goals: 5

Assists: 4

Points: 9

Penalty minutes: 6

Plus-Minus: Minus-3

Average Ice Time: 19:57

Contract Status: 6 years remaining on 13-year, $124  million contract [2015-16 salary: $10 million; cap hit: $9,538,462]

Strengths: Considering the scrutiny he received a year ago after leading the NHL in goal scoring but finishing with a career-worst minus-35, Ovechkin needed a boost to his image and head coach Barry Trotz provided it. It all started with a one-on-one chat between the two at the NHL awards banquet in Las Vegas last summer, when Trotz asked his captain to answer a series of questions he had typed out for him. From there, a relationship built on respect and professionalism was born. Ovechkin was asked to play better away from the puck and he did, turning his minus-35 into a plus-10. He was asked to produce more while playing less and he did, scoring a league-high 53 goals while averaging the second-lowest ice time 20:19 of his NHL career. Ovechkin finished his 10th NHL season ranked first in goals [53], power-play goals [career-high 25], game-winning goals [11] and shots [395]. He also finished fourth in the NHL in points [81] and tied for ninth among forwards in hits with 259. Ovechkin’s 395 shots were his most since the 2008-09 season and came in a season when he was asked to backcheck harder and more frequently than he ever did in his career. “From what I've observed, he's done what's been asked of him," Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “He bought in to what Barry has asked him to do and he's been successful. And consequently our team has.”

[RELATED Will newly signed Grubauer back up Holtby?

Room for improvement: Ovechkin will never be a Selke Trophy candidate and his positioning in the defensive zone can always be improved. He still has a tendency to want to leave the defensive zone early but paid more attention to that area of his game this season. Ovechkin’s slapper from the left circle is one of the most predictable yet effective shots in the NHL. He added a net-front presence to his game this season and could go there more often to create traffic, deflect pucks and pounce on rebounds.  Ovechkin was a beast against the Islanders in Round 1 but was held without a point against the Rangers in Games 3, 4, 5 and 6 before scoring the Caps’ lone goal in their 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7.   

Memorable Moment: Got an hour? Ovechkin had a ton of them. That move he used to score a goal against the Devils on Dec. 20 was, as Joe Beninati put it, ‘Dangle-iscious.” Ovechkin rumbled down the right wing and somehow stepped inside defenseman Jon Merrill before hoisting a backhander over Devils goalie Cory Schneider.  But Ovechkin’s most incredible individual effort came in Game 2 in the Rangers playoff series when he split defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi and beat Henrik Lundqvist over the shoulder on his way to the ice, a shot even Lundqvist had difficulty describing after the game. 

Quotable:  “Like I said, we’re going to New York and finish out the series. That’s what I mean. I don’t care what everybody thinks, to be honest with you. I care about what we think here in the group and as a team. You guys can think whatever you want.” – Ovechkin before Game 7 against the Rangers

2015-16 Expectations: The goal, at least in the eyes of Barry Trotz, is for Ovechkin to improve on an already improved product. That means more frequent back checks and better positioning in the defensive zone without sacrificing offense. Ovechkin always seems to have a motivating factor and next season he will have a few. It will be his first NHL season as a 30-year-old, very likely his first without Mike Green feeding him, and his 11th seeking a trip to the Conference Final for the first time. The bar of 50 goals, 80 points and a Stanley Cup has been set.

 

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty-plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor, but the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots. 

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period.

It was No. 77’s second tally of the series. He also directed six shots at the Columbus net and made a couple of hits...all from a player who's been fighting through injury the past few weeks.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.