Ovechkin Second Fiddler On the Roof
I mentioned earlier how the past calendar year had illustrated that Alex Ovechkin was becoming much less Superman and a lot more Robin in relation to Sidney Crosby's Batman. Here's exactly why.
When the two players were introduced to the league right after the lockout, it was a great pairing. Two young players, each of whom would pull not only their team but the league as a whole out of their doldrums. The different extents to which that has happened since the two began their first career postseason clash has distanced them from each other significantly.
Last summer, Washington wasted a 2-0 series lead against Pittsburgh in the conference final, then came back to win three straight games. This only delayed the drama as they were embarrassed 6-2 in Game Seven.
This year, Crosby scored the gold-medal winning goal for Team Canada at the Olympics, while Ovechkin's Russian squad didn't even medal. Now the Capitals entered this postseason as the odds-on favorite to win the cup before amazingly frittering away a 3-1 series lead to the Canadiens. Meanwhile, Crosby is collecting a league leading point total on his way to another Cup final experience.
Granted, those results - both the Olympics and this past week - are as much an indictment of Ovechkin's teammates as they are of Ovechkin himself. Numerous players didn't show up, and the Capitals were exposed for an undisciplined, freelance style of play that scored them enough goals to outrun their opponents in the regular season, but not the postseason.
That said, Team Canada laid out the blueprint of how to shut down Ovie in the Olympics - put a big strong defensive forward on Ovechkin's side of the ice, and behind him put your biggest and best defenseman. That cut off Alex's free runs down the left wing, responsible for many of his big games this season.
The Canadiens (the team, not the country) followed that exact plan with Josh Gorges and Hal Gill, and it worked like a dream. This was the kind of one-dimensional solution reserved for shutting down a sniper, not a captain and team leader.
Ovechkin needs to take a serious look at how his career has unfolded so far and realize that he has plateaued in terms of his likely success in the NHL, which at this point is not unlike Dan Marino; good, but not quite good enough.
It's hard to say if that wide open style of Washington's is a Bruce Boudreau philosophy or one designed to make Ovechkin happy, but Alex needs to get more from his teammates, partly because his best isn't good enough to carry a team as captain.