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Is the pressure getting to Alex Ovechkin?

Apr 16, 2010, 9:55 AM EDT

Ovi4.jpgAside from the story of how Tomas Plekanec actually backed up his big
words — something you don’t see everyday in professional sports — the
story this morning is surrounding Alex Ovechkin and his zero shots on

The Capitals were foiled by much more than just Ovechkin
being a non-factor for much of the game
, but for their captain — and
someone who is supposedly Hart Trophy worthy — to disappear for long
stretches has to be concerning. It’s much more so than just looking at
the numbers and determining that he didn’t have a good game; anyone
watching could see that Ovechkin had a tough time being his normally
high-energy, dominant self.

Bruce Boudreau pulled no punches,
saying after the game “He didn’t play good. The gapped on real well on
him but I don’t think Alex played very well.”

So what was it? Was
Ovechkin just not good, or did the Canadiens just do one heck of a job
taking away the Capitals’ best player?

Jaroslav Spacek is happy
with how his team played Ovechkin, but had nothing but praise for the
man everyone is asking about today. From
Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Blog

“He was playing good,” Spacek said. “His shots didn’t
get through,
that’s the problem, but I think we did a great job against their first
line all night long. We didn’t give them too much space. If he will be
shooting from the blue line, he’s probably not that effective. And we
had the guys to step up on him all the time. So when you see the third
guy, fourth guy coming back, that’s even better for our defensemen.”

worth noting that Ovechkin wasn’t exactly shotless. He had five blocked
shots and three that missed the net, the most total attempts on the
team aside from Mike Knuble and Alex Semin.

That being said,
there’s no doubt that something just isn’t right. He had the second most
ice time on the team last night (26:26), but it certainly didn’t seem
like he was on the ice for that amount of time while watching the game.
He wasn’t pushing the play, wasn’t aggressively attacking the defense up
the wing like we’ve seen time and time again, and instead seemed intent
on trying to continuously take the puck across the slot as he looked
for an opening. There never was one.

Is Ovechkin hurt, or is this
something mental? He just hasn’t been the same since the Olympics
disappointment, and you have to wonder if the pressure is starting to
get to him. He’s no longer the free wheeling, aggressive, fun-loving
hockey player that has dominated so many games. He was calm, quiet and a
bit off during practice leading up to last night’s game, stating he was
saving his emotions for the game; that emotional side of him never
showed up.

This isn’t to pin the loss on Ovechkin; far from it. As
David Getz of Japers’ Rink noted last night
, Ovechkin, Semin and Mike
Green all had off nights with just eight shots on goal between the
three. The Capitals will need the entire team to step up, but in the end
it’s Ovechkin that can make the difference.

He’s supposedly the
best player in the NHL, one who has the ability to completely take over a
game. If the Capitals are to avoid one hell of an upset, they’ll need
him to find that emotional core that he’s used all season long.

  1. Reprobus - Apr 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    I do think Ovie is gripping a bit right now. Perhaps the negative publicity around the Campbell hit, or a slight injury (Though as they pointed out on NHL Network, Boudreau would have protected him a bit more in the Post-Game Presser if he was playing through someting)
    I think he will explode out of it. He did a couple years ago after a similar start against Philly. Maybe the Habs just deserve some credit for devising a game plan to combat the Caps stars. Because despite the “off-night” of Green, Semin, and Ovie Jaro Halak had to make 45 stops!.
    that trend won’t hold for Montreal through 7 games.

  2. sob - Apr 16, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    The guy I worry about is Semin. Great potential but he looked like he was skating in sand last night. He had way too many turnovers last night and took a bad penalty–one of his negative trademarks. Ovechkin will be fine; it’s Semin I worry about–I think he tends to choke in the big games and they will need him to make a significant run

  3. ebuce - Apr 16, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    There is a big difference between regular season hockey and playoff hockey. It doesn’t seem like the Caps are prepared to play real playoff hockey. When things got tough for OV at the Olympics he completely disappeared. He looked awful last night too. He was a terrible choice for Captain and now its really showing.

  4. Pato - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Maybe he took the night off–but if he takes another night off his integrity will be on the line?

  5. J4RD0 - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    WoooOOOOoooOOOOOoooo. That’s the sound of the exaggeration police coming to arrest you. Good job making a judgement on Ovechkin’s captaincy based solely on one playoff game. I suppose the 14 game win streak that started right after being given the C was just a fluke.
    Sure, Ovi might not be the perfect Captain yet, but he is the face of the franchise, and every player in the locker room agrees he was the right man for the job. He was the emotional leader for the last couple seasons prior to being named Captain, but now it’s just official. He will continue to grow and mature as he settles into the role.
    Also, I feel obligated to point out how cliche it has become to blame the Olympics loss on Ovechkin. Nevermind the lack of depth on defense, the half roster of KHL players, or the incompetent coach. People seem to forget Ovi scored the GWG against Canada in 2006 to knock them out. He often steps up in big games, but he’s still mortal.

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