- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One day this summer, a video surfaced of Alex Ovechkin that didn’t shed him in such a great light. The Washington Capitals star heard all about it from friends.

“They said, ‘You look kind of fat.’ I said, ‘No, I can’t be fat,’ ” Ovechkin said Tuesday. “I was laughing about it, and the people was a little bit scared — especially hockey fans — was kind of scared about what happened to my body.”

Ovechkin, who Tuesday announced a six-year equipment deal with Bauer that involves donating equipment to D.C. and Moscow youth hockey programs, laughed the situation off as a bad camera angle. But it brought to light the subject of Ovechkin’s body and preparedness, especially given the Caps’ second-round sweep last spring.

Training camp doesn’t begin for more than a week, but he and several teammates already are taking part in informal practices — and Ovechkin is confident he can put that video controversy to rest.

“My body is perfect right now,” he said. “I think right now I’m in better shape than I was last year and the year before. My conditioning is much better, so I feel pretty good.”

Ovechkin didn’t want to reveal his offseason training regimen but did say he’s been working out since July 23. With coach Bruce Boudreau and others preaching a more serious tone, the captain took to heart needing to improve on last season when he managed just 32 goals and 53 assists.

“I said to myself, ‘You have to be working harder’ because you can see what the season was last year — I was kind of like ‘OK, I can play like that, that’s OK. If I make mistakes, it’s gonna be mistake,’ ” he said. “I just tell myself you have to play 100 percent every game like I played a couple years ago and years before.”

In those years before 2010-11, Ovechkin was a goal-scoring machine. He scored 65 in 2007-08 and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP that season and the next.

Last year was full of injuries, and though a new defensive system can be partially blamed for the decline in production, Ovechkin was not himself.

“He tried something different last year,” owner Ted Leonsis said. “He wanted to work his way into shape so that he was peaking during the playoffs. And he’s going try something different this year.”

Asked if he was healed from various injuries, Ovechkin sounded confident that four months’ worth of rest and relaxation was enough. And though last season brought a disappointing ending for the Caps, it was beneficial to Ovechkin in his growth as the captain and leader.

“Of course last year and year before when I get the ‘C’ on my heart, it was something new for me because I had never been a captain at that high level,” he said. “But last year was a good year for me to learn what I have to do.”

Now, fans are left to watch Ovechkin during training camp to see if the offseason has been as beneficial as hoped. Naturally, true fruit of that labor won’t be evident for a while.

“The results will speak for themselves at the end of the season,” Leonsis said. “But he looks great and he’s in great spirits, and when your captain and best player, highest-paid player, is confident and in shape, I think that sets a tone for the rest of the team.”