“No one ever got better at hockey by bowling,” says Alex Ovechkin’s unattached head to a wide-eyed youngster in his new CCM commercial. Apparently, the “Great 8” spends little time AMF-ing it up instead of following his mantra of “more practice for you.”
Ovechkin has three goals in three games, including Monday night’s game-winning goal in OT over the Ottawa Senators. Nothing new of course, but it’s good to see him start strong after he went through a slump (by his standards) following a dismal showing by Team Russia in the Olympics.
Let’s not forget, Ovi is entering the first full year of his captaincy and will be expected to help set the tone for a team determined to become tougher and more attentive to the fundamentals. The Capitals have certainly been “angry” through three games, but they still have yet to wholeheartedly play a full 60 minute game.
Washington has the talent to get away with half-assing a period or two in the regular season, but it better not become the norm again. The postseason is no place for lackadaisical play and it will be up to Ovechkin and other team leaders to ensure the Caps remain focused in the regular season and transition that energy into a play-off run.
It’s not just about dropping the gloves (even though we heartily endorse a good old-fashioned brawl), it’s about keeping your head up and making crisp passes on breakouts (We’re looking at you, Marcus Johansson). It’s also about improving a silent powerplay. On that note, is Mike Green going to be more careful with the puck at the point?
In reference to the new emphasis on physicality, we applaud the four fighting majors the Caps drew Saturday night against New Jersey. Not only was it a statement to the rest of the NHL, reenforcing the idea Washington would stand up for themselves in 2010-11, it also reassured each and every player on the roster the team would not rely solely on finesse to win games.
We saw that tenacity again Monday when John Erskine got a little testy with Jarkko Ruutu. Several minor skirmishes around the crease also attested to the Caps new-found sense of grit, and once D.J. King dresses, opposing teams might want to avoid rubbing the Caps the wrong way.
We understand Washington has 79 games left to fix these issues, but some of them are eerily similar to those of seasons past. It would be best to shelve those concerns quickly before negative tendencies take over once again. Staying angry is all well and good, but attention to detail might be even more important.
The Caps aren’t perfect and it falls on Ovi’s shoulders more than anyone to oversee a team who cares about every aspect of the game. He’s not just a playmaker, he’s the captain and the team is looking at him to set the tone. Scoring is nice, but there’s so much more Ovechkin is responsible for now since the “C” is on his sweater.
So props to the Caps for a nice start to the season, but of course with the praise comes some words of warning straight from the Book of Ovechkin. Less bowling and “more practice for you.”