By Reed S. Albers
ESPN once called Alex Ovechkin a human highlight reel, but this season he’s added little to the production of grandiose goals that litter the videos played ad nauseam on Comcast Sportsnet.
Remember when he would fall to his knees, but still control the puck and send it top shelf past some helpless goaltender?
Those seemingly vanished from his game.
What about his incredible individual efforts that might as well end with Ovi shrugging his shoulders and declaring “what teammates?”
Missing in action.
Once upon a time Ovechkin was the human highlight reel, but when his 2011-12 campaign started with a disappointing eight goals in 26 games, fans feared the best days were behind him.
Not so fast.
It’s not easy to pin point a change in a players’ development or style, but Wednesday night’s 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators could very well be a moment that attributes to the re-rise of No. 8.
It’s just one goal by Ovechkin, but in a way more than one goal. It could be the goal that gets him back on track.
The situation was like most grand Ovechkin goals. Washington had just tied the game on a Nicklas Backstrom power play goal after starting the third trailing 2-1.
Someone needed to be a hero, and as it has been in the past, Ovechkin answered the call.
After carrying the puck out of his defensive end, Ovechkin streaked down the left wing, drawing two defensemen and keeping the puck from their poke checks.
He swung around the net with Erik Karlsson in pursuit, slammed on his brakes and sent his defender gliding to the blue line.
Ovechkin stepped toward the goal, winded up a slapper, but faked and instead tossed a wrister past goalie Craig Anderson.
NHL.com dubbed it “Alex the Brakes.” Twitter users sent his name skyrocketing up Washington D.C.’s trending topics and Sens fans left their seats in droves.
Ovechkin celebrated with a few four letter words — at least that’s what our lip-reading tells us — followed by relieved hugs from his teammates.
Welcome back, Ovi.
For months fans have complained Ovechkin isn’t creative enough on his zone entrances. Pundits believed his moves were figured out to the point that Ovechkin is a one-trick pony on a declining path.
They’ve been right in some respects, but against Ottawa it was clear Ovechkin was willing to try more than the typical power move toward the net.
He hung onto the puck longer, using speed to beat defenders and create two solid low slot chances against Anderson. He even bounced the puck on his stick five times to keep an offensive zone possession alive in one sequence and his passing was crisper than it’s been in most games.
Ovi got creative and it was fun to watch, something that hasn’t been experienced by fans in quite some time.
It was written that when Caps Coach Dale Hunter took over the team, he needed to figure out Ovechkin in order for the Caps to be successful.
Maybe that’s not the struggle at all. Maybe it’s Ovi needing to figure himself out and evolve his game on his own. Wednesday night’s goal is certainly a stride in the right direction.