As fans we look for Alex Ovechkin on the ice every game and every practice. We follow his yellow laces gliding across the ice. We watch for the little jump that starts his drive to the net. And we gasp every time he makes a powerful slapshot from his office around the stunned opponent’s goalie.
Ovechkin is the Washington Capitals team captain. He is the wind beneath their wings, so to speak. His greatness inspires greatness on and off the ice. His grin is as infectious as is his look of determination. As captain, he is expected to motivate the team to follow his lead.
However, the Capitals are in a loosing streak- one of the worst we have seen in the Ovechkin era. And this time even Ovechkin’s skill and success aren’t making a difference in the win column. Ovi continues his personal drive toward a 50-goal season with 37 on the stat sheet and as number one goal scorer in the NHL. He even tried a single-handed win over the Sharks on January 22 with a hat trick (that’s 23 now) and an assist, only to have the defense let him down as Evander Kane got a shot past goaltender Braden Holtby to send the game into overtime with a second left on the clock. Unfortunately, Tomas Hertl would close out the night with a hat trick of his own for a 7-6 OT win over the Caps.
Wednesday night Ovechkin continued his leadership on the ice with his 37th goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs; however, the team fall again in a 6-3 loss. This makes seven in a row and no one, not Ovi or Coach Reirden seem to know how to snap out of the free fall.
Ovechkin leads the team in goals (37) and points (51). Nick Backstrom is right behind him with 51 points and is second on the team with 38 assists while John Carlson leads with 39. That isn’t enough though for the defending Stanley Cup Champions who are sliding down the leader board into a possible wild card position.
Ovechkin’s leadership and example apparently isn’t enough to flip the switch back to winning. The defense is falling short. Braden Holtby is frequently left defending the net by himself. The top paid players are not getting enough pucks into the net. In short, things are looking a bit of a mess and fans and hockey experts are scratching their heads and wondering who is going to infuse the energy and tenacity into this team to get them to a winning streak.
The boys are off for the All Star and Bye Week breaks. There is sure to be some of that team bonding that they are famous for when off the ice. Let’s hope Todd Reirden and his staff are looking at innovative ways to motivate them when they return on February 1 against the Flames–without Alex Ovechkin who will be sitting out as his penalty for not attending the All Star Games and resting his body for the grind ahead.
Tune in January 31 at 2p.m. For Caps Practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.