- - Sunday, April 8, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It was a lot of fun Saturday night at the Capital One Arena, watching Alex Ovechkin try to get to his 50th goal of the season.

“We want 50,” the crowd shouted, as Washington coach Barry Trotz kept his superstar on the ice for six of the last eight minutes of the game.

He came close, scoring twice in the 5-3 season finale win over the New Jersey Devils to reach 49 — still leading the league and securing his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy to lead the NHL in goals scored, another piece of hardware to add to the collection.

“The guys, the fans cheering for me, it was a pretty cool moment,” Ovechkin said. I’m pretty sure they enjoy it, the boys, my team enjoyed it as well. If I did it, it would be pretty cool moment.”

“He must have had 25 shot attempts (18 actually), and they were standing next to him, too,” Trotz said. “That’s how good he is. Everybody, I was praying he would get 50, and everyone on the bench was too. Still 49 goals, not that many guys in the league could do that.

“Not only the fact that you lead the league, but the durability factor to do that,” Trotz said. “You see the coverage he gets, guys are standing two feet away from him and he’s still trying to get shots, it is pretty remarkable in this day and age.”

But it doesn’t really mean anything right, coach?

“I talked to Ovi about this a few games back,” Trotz said. “He said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get to 50. But the most important thing is that we’re ready for the playoffs.’ That’s really good on him … we talked about individual goals and team goals and right now he wants the team goal.”

So if it is good enough for Ovi, then it should be good enough for Capitals fans. The milestones, the records, the entire Alex Ovechkin legacy has a giant hole in it that he recognizes — lack of Stanley Cup playoff success.

If the coach and the player acknowledge that the “team goal” is what matters the most, then why can’t Capitals fans use the same measuring stick? Because it’s too painful? Because at least you can take pride in Ovechkin’s personal achievements — three Hart Trophies as the league’s Most Valuable Player, among other honors — to ease the pain of postseason failures?

Ovechkin has just told you that won’t work anymore.

He finished his 13th NHL season, and is about to enter his 10th Stanley Cup playoffs. His team’s record has been nine early exits from the postseason — never getting past the second round — and a 47-50 record.

We have been told that it is unfair to judge Ovechkin by these team failures. And that may, on some level, be right. After all, this Capitals team was not expected to reach 49 wins this year to lead the Metropolitan Division. This was supposed to be a down year, a year of uncertainty.

But coming off a 33-goal season last year, Ovechkin put the team on his shoulders and beat down those expectations. The Capitals were 37-10-3 this season when Ovechkin scored a point. He got them here.

But Ovechkin, based on Trotz’s comments, has come to the conclusion that he will be measured by his Stanley Cup failures, at least to date, when compared to other hockey greats.

“It is what it is,” Ovechkin said. “The most important thing now ahead of us. Our second season now really starts in a couple of days.” It specifically starts Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Capital One Arena.

Saturday night was yet one more celebration of the greatness what Alex Ovechkin the athlete. “It is pretty remarkable to see such a remarkable athlete, night in and night you, and sometimes you don’t appreciate it as much as you should,” Trotz said.

When the flights back to Russia while playoff hockey is still being played in the NHL stop, I think then everyone will appreciate Alex Ovechkin as much as they should.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.


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