Ovechkin celebrates a PP goal, one of the main ways Adam Oates has rejuvented the $100 million man. (Clydeorama)
"As the pressure on Ovechkin continues to mount, how he responds to it will be key. He can either work to be better all around, like Ilya Kovalchuk, or wallow and burn out, like Pavel Bure. It is his decision, and his alone. How bad does he want it?" - Offseason Evaluation, Alex Ovechkin: June 20, 2012
He wanted it bad. What a turnaround.
When I wrote those words early last summer, Alex Ovechkin was, at an individual level, facing the biggest challenge of his professional career. He was coming off a regular season with 65 points, the lowest of his career; the Capitals were not at the level of regular season dominance that he, his teammates, and the fans were accustomed to; and another trip to the playoffs had resulted in another early exit. Dale Hunter, his former coach, had cut his ice time to all-time lows, and in Ovechkin’s own words, made the Captain a “plumber.”
Many, myself included, doubted Ovechkin’s ability to ever return to the pinnacle of the sport offensively for variety of reasons. A very good, above-average, goal scorer, certainly. But be the best of the best again?
I was wrong.
Alex Ovechkin is once again at the pinnacle of the sport offensively. He is tied for the NHL lead in goals at this moment, putting the puck in the back of the net 26 times so far this season. He scored again on Tuesday night in Montreal during yet another Capitals win, an absolute beauty of a goal in which he abused Michal Ryder to create space for himself and ripping a shot past Carey Price. It was a retro “Ovi goal,” one in which he wowed everyone in the arena with his sheer ability. Ovechkin now has eight goals in five April games and since the morning of March 7, when he had eight goals, he has scored 18 goals in 19 games. He is incredibly hot, hotter than he has been in recent memory. And he’s probably going to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, something very few people thought he would ever do again as late as a week ago.
Read on for the reasons of the remarkable turnaround.