At 31 years old, Alex Ovechkin is now closer to the end of his than the start. He is still one of the top offensive players in the league, but there have been fewer highlight goals this season for the Great 8 and that’s just fine with him.
One of the keys Barry Trotz has emphasized all season long to the Caps is the importance of “dirty” goals. That is a message that has clearly sunk in for Ovechkin.
“I think right now if you didn't put puck in, you didn't score, you have to do something to create some moments,” Ovechkin said, “Create some chances to, it doesn't matter, Osh or Backy or whatever, who's on your line. Sometimes you just have to do that kind of stuff.”
Those are strong words from the greatest goal scorer of his generation, but it reflects the adjustment we have seen Ovechkin try to make to his game this season and what he has learned from his own playoff experience.
Even for a player like Ovechkin, goals are hard to come by in the playoffs. It’s the dirty goals that will decide a series. As Washington begins another quest for the Cup, Ovechkin knows he needs to work at getting those dirty goals for the team to have success.
“It's time right now to start concentrate on different things than shooting the puck,” Ovechkin said, “Because you can see there's not going to be beautiful goals out there. Maybe one in the whole series. But it's going to be dirty one, you know? You have to be around the net. You have to win the battles. Throw it on net, find the rebound, make traffic and create those second chances.”
That sounds like eight playoff appearances worth of experience talking.
As the Capitals prepare to face a very skilled and very young Toronto team, it’s fair to wonder if that is a lesson the Leafs understand yet or if they will soon learn in their fist taste of postseason hockey.
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