Another second round exit for the Washington Capitals brought inevitable questions about the performance and legacy of Alex Ovechkin. Barry Trotz wasn’t ready to answer those questions after a Game 7 loss on Wednesday. On Friday’s breakdown day, he clarified why he would not touch on his captain’s performance.
“After you lose as a group and the culture that we have here, I am not going to talk about an individual player because we win and lose,” Trotz said. “There's not one player that can win you a series and I am not going to talk about one player because we win and lose as a group. Myself, my staff, players, we all take responsibility, we fell short of our goal and it hurts. I think it's very unfair try to single out one player because you cannot win a series or a Cup with one player and that's where I was trying to go.
“Emotionally, I would've said something very awful to the media. To me, we win and lose as a team and that really is something I couldn't answer. I was in a bad place after losing.”
After recording four points in the first three games of the series, Ovechkin was held to only one point in the final four games. His lack of production and continued struggle to defeat nemesis Sidney Crosby in the playoffs resulted in a lot of scrutiny around him. It was no surprise then to find out Ovechkin had been playing through a knee and hamstring injury.
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“Everybody's hurt and everybody tries to play through it as best they can,” Trotz said. “How much? Only Alex can answer that. We keep all our injuries to themselves. I'm not going to talk about injuries, but a lot of guys, when you play in the playoffs and you're getting banged around and everything's ramped up, everybody's hurt. You're either hurt or you're injured and if you're injured, you're not playing but you're probably playing hurt. That goes for everybody.’
Ovechkin finished the playoffs on the third line and playing third-line minutes. For a team that appers to be in transition, this begs the question just what Ovechkin’s role on the team will be going forward.
Trotz, however stressed Ovechkin remains one of the team’s top players.
“He's a prominent, big-time player,” Trotz said. “No question. I think there's a tweak in every series so I think probably very similar to last year, he's been in the top six, top three really through his whole career. When I go to six I can flip playing with Backy or playing with Kuzy's not a bad option.”
In other words, the demise of Ovechkin has been greatly exaggerated.
Said Trotz, “He’s still got game.”