- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alex Ovechkin left the ice bloodied and in pain after taking a puck to the face in practice Thursday. Twenty-two stitches later, the Washington Capitals’ captain was doing fine.

“It’s hockey,” he wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a photo of his wounded chin.

Hockey is something that Ovechkin showed early in his career he could dominate. Even in recent years, amid plenty of criticism, it’s impossible to say the 27-year-old star isn’t still pretty good at it.

Lately in particular. Ovechkin has six goals and four assists in his past six games. That’s one way to silence the critics, at least temporarily.

“Right now I’m scoring goals, and I’m the king of the world,” Ovechkin said Monday. “And a couple weeks ago I was almost in the toilet. So maybe you just forget to flush me.”

“You” could mean any member of the media, or specifically NBC Sports analysts Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire, who took opportunities on the air to point out Ovechkin’s flaws. Given his $9 million salary, though, the captain isn’t and shouldn’t be immune from criticism.

But he also has every right to prove naysayers wrong. In nine games since being a minus-3 player against the New York Rangers, when McGuire ripped Ovechkin for a mistake that led to a goal by Derek Stepan, he has seven goals and five assists.

All along, coach Adam Oates has been clear about what he wants from Ovechkin. He wants as many quality scoring chances as possible, insisting the goals will come.

“The most important thing for me is the chances,” Ovechkin said. “If I have like two games, no chances, no shootings, of course it’s something bad with me and maybe our line didn’t work out. But right now everything is working, and I feel pretty good.”

Ovechkin is burying more shots recently, Oates said. That led to his being named the NHL’s first star of the week and playing a major role in the Caps going 3-1 on a crucial road trip.

The Caps are 10-3 this season when Ovechkin scores a goal. Oates likes to emphasize how much opponents key on Ovechkin, so his beating that game plan can be demoralizing.

“He carries us. And he brings an enthusiasm that is right through the lineup,” Oates said. “I’m trying to tap into it as much as I can all night long.”

Ovechkin extended his point streak to six with an assist Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, but it was the first time he didn’t score a goal since March 16 at the Boston Bruins. It would have been his first six-game goal-scoring streak since January 2008.

He has these kinds of runs every once in a while, when it looks like the puck will go in just about every time he touches it. But Ovechkin doesn’t feel like he will score every time he shoots.

“Sometimes it’s just lucky shot, sometimes it’s lucky bounce,” he said. “Linemates have to do very good job to find me. They did, and I just have to put puck in the net.”

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