Alex Ovechkin, even in year 17, remains the stalwart of the Washington Capitals’ offense. The captain leads the team with 15 points, including a league-high nine goals, over the Caps’ first nine games of the season.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette was asked if Ovechkin’s usage at age 36 was a bit high, even given his stellar production thus far.
“Listen, he’s off and running,” Laviolette said on The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday. “We were pushing him in that game the other night [a 3-2 loss in Tampa Bay], I think he played 23 minutes. But the game’s on the line, we want to keep things moving in the right direction.”
Ovechkin’s high usage has enabled him to get out to the best season start he’s had since his rookie year. For the first time since 2005-06, he started with a point in each of Washington’s first eight games. Meanwhile, the Capitals never lost in regulation during that stretch and currently sit at third place in the Metropolitan division.
“His start has been unbelievable—a lot of credit’s gotta go to his two linemates I think, [Evgeny] Kuznetsov and [Tom] Wilson,” Laviolette said of No. 8’s early-season accolades, which just earned him First Star of the Month honors for October.
“We’re also chasing the game a little bit. Like I said, I like the way we’re playing but we’re not ahead on the scoreboard. So, as it comes down to the third period, you find those guys going over the boards every other shift or every third shift, and just getting them back out there because they’re making a difference in the game.”
Ovechkin’s 15 points on the year, good enough for third in the NHL behind the tenacious Edmonton duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, might not come as a surprise. What might be surprising, though, is that the 36-year-old left winger is currently eighth in the league in ice time among forwards, clocking in 21:23 per game thus far.
“He has no issue with minutes, or the time that he’s on the ice. His recovery is quick on the bench and he goes back out there and he’s as powerful in the third period as he is in the first period,” Laviolette said of Ovechkin’s usage.
Of the seven forwards who have seen more ice time than Ovechkin this season, none of them are older than 28. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's top-line center alongside Ovechkin while Nicklas Backstrom remains out, is 10th on that list with 21:07 TOI/GP.
Peter Laviolette knows the workload that is expected of an aging yet agile Ovechkin. Still, he can rest easy knowing that the Russian winger can handle whatever is thrown at him.
“I truly believe he’s fine, he can handle those minutes,” Laviolette said. “You look around the league and all top players are playing 20 minutes, 22 minutes. Defensemen are playing 27 minutes. There are still some D-men out there that are playing 30 minutes, half the game. So these guys can handle it and I think they’re in pretty good shape.”