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Ovechkin Has Been "Sensational"

Everyone was anxious to see how Alex Ovechkin would rebound from his blowup in Tampa.

Well, we've got our answer.

I feel weird saying this about a player who's got 46 goals, but, in my opinion, the past two games have been among Ovechkin's best this season. And that's not just because he's scored three of the Caps' four goals, leading them to victories over the Panthers and Thrashers.

He's skated harder and with more confidence and determination. He's been more assertive. He's been more creative (he attempted to score while his back was to the net against Florida). He's been more committed in the defensive end.

And I'm not the only one who's noticed an uptick in his game.

"He's been sensational," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "On his matchups [against Atlanta] he was so sharp. We were trying to get some line matchups and he was so attentive to it. I'm just happy he got rewarded with some goals because that really motivates him."

Ovechkin downplayed the notion that he's taken his game to another level since smashing his stick and iPod in frustration after Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Lightning.

"Right now I feel great," he said. "You see the reason. I score goal [on Tuesday] and two goals [on Wednesday]. This was not my best games this season. Sometimes I play well and I don't score."

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 5, 2007; 8:22 AM ET
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Next: Semin Expected to Play


He has played great the past 2 games. Hopefully he'll destroy an ipod once a week all of next season - he'd destroy the record books!

Finish the year of strong fellas. Then lets see what GMGM can do this summer.

Posted by: Go Skins Go | April 5, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Ovechkin has been the best Caps player. He will always be the Caps best player. Move aside, Kolzig.

Posted by: Finn | April 5, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

With a real #1 center, he'll be pushing 60 goals next year. I bet Hartley would trade Kovalchuk for Ovie in a second after last night.

Posted by: boor4 | April 5, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Tarik-any word on Semin being able to play on Saturday? I'd love to see him with Ovie on the same line for the last game of the season. Thanks

Posted by: kenhockey | April 5, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I've been waiting for Ovie to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. It seems prior to Saturday's blowup that Ovie has been trying to be an unselfish player, looking to set up his teammates. Ovie is one of those rare players, who, when motivated can take control of the game. Until the Caps get a legitimate playmaking center, Ovie needs to be a selfish player, who will put the team on his back, and take control of the game.

Posted by: Lawyerdude | April 5, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

i loved seeing him pull the puck into his feet to change the angle on that second shot. he's been taking pointers from alex, II (who does it about as well as anyone i've ever seen). pretty nasty to make an already deadly wrist shot that much deadlier.

Posted by: pgreene | April 5, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

As folks are indicating, with a legitimate first line centre, Ovechkin could probably approach some of the highest goal scoring numbers by a left wing. It's up to McPhee and Ted to amke that happen this summer. Keep us posted, Tarik.

Posted by: Cap-Hill-Caps-Fan | April 5, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

hey finn, was wondering how you were going to twist this victory into some sort of complaint. so you weren't impressed by a shutout victory over a non-playoff team. how about a victory over a team w/ somethign to play for who has 20 more points than the caps. oh, and the caps were without their second best player in semin and using their back up goalie against a fully stocked atlanta team. only you could turn that into a shot at olie. did anyone every say olie was the best player on the team? was that comparison made anywhere? has it ever been up for debate? no, but you just cant resist the urge to provide your doom and gloom commentary. so so sad.

Posted by: Finn = Eeor | April 5, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Now can we only get Semin to start acting like a professional and play hard like Ovechkin. Maybe he would stop getting benched. And oh by the way to all those morons who were screaming that Semin should not have been benched because he's one of our "best" players. Well apparently Hanlon isn't the only one who does it. Hartley did it to Kovalchuk. Time for the boys to start acting like men and grow up. And it's time for those Caps fans to realize that too. Makes me sick to know that there are fans that think Hanlon should coddle these players.

On a humor note, what are the Caps doing by winning these games! They're blowing their chance of scoring the top pick in the draft!

Posted by: Chris | April 5, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I, for one, have never criticezed either Ovechkin or Semin. They are the two best players this team has. And will have, subject to another screw up. I have also pointed out that Ovechkin is a 70+ goal scorer with the right center. So nothing is dool and gloom with Ovechkin. He's the ray of light... As for Olie, everyone assumes that Kolzig is this undisputed best Cap. I question that. I think, no, I am sure Ovechkin is the best Cap. That was my point.

Posted by: Finn | April 5, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

tarik, can you please take down the lecavalier quote, its beginning to offend me, especially ever since you made us all aware of your dirty love for the lightning

Posted by: Anonymous | April 5, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

in the past two years has anyone said olie is the best cap? i really don't think there is any debate. so if you think ovie is the best player why don't you just say it without bashing another player.

Posted by: Finn = Eeeor | April 5, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

It's the Finn-Caphcky game!

Pretend to know the truth about every Caps fan, then proceed to bash them to proclaim mental superiority.

Finn - something can't be 'assumed' AND 'undisputed'.

Posted by: Slappy | April 5, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The Caps have a lot of problems, but along with Ovechkin and Semin they also have several bright spots both on the roster and in the system.

I feel confident that management will sign a #1 center over the summer; whether it's Daysyuk or somebody else. Best case scenerio would be for Backstrom to walk in an take that role, but I think we'd all agree that's asking quite a lot from the kid in his first season.

I'm less confident that the Caps will be able to find a legitimate #1 defenseman, simply because there aren't as many true studs available. There are some, so hopefully we'll get one of them but that's a tall order. I would again remind you to watch the Frozen Four to get a look at Joe Finley.. I've been impressed with how well he moves for a guy who's that huge. Probably a couple years away but along with Schultz and Green (and maybe Pokulok) there are a lot of talented young D-men in the system.

And that's why my main concern is in the net. I do not expect the Caps to sign a new, #1 goalie this summer, which means they'll start next season with Kolzig. Remember, '07 - '08 is a season in which we all agree they should contend for a playoff spot. Kolzig's 37 years old and has a history of giving up bad goals at the worst possible times. Now, I hope I'm wrong; if he has a great season next year I'll be ecstatic and I'll be the first to tell you that I was wrong.

And this year's Tampa Bay team proves that you can make the playoffs with a goalie who's not one of the top eight goalies in the conference, so who knows.

At least we won't lose a playoff series after being up 3 games to 1 this year.


Posted by: Oneal | April 5, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Not to throw cold water on everyone who is expecting the Caps to sign a number one center who'll make Ovie a 70+ goal scorer and turn the Caps into a playoff team, but have the Caps ever really been successful in free agency? It always seems like players just don't really want to sign here, for whatever reason. And it's not just now that we're not winning - it was that way even back in the 90's, when we were making the playoffs every year. Briere and Datsyuk may just turn out to be this year's Roenick and Selanne, top guys who don't want to take the Caps' money. Not to mention the fact that the one time we did actually get a top free agent - Robert Lang - it didn't exactly make the team that much better.

I'm not trying to be a doom-and-gloomer. I think we've got a great base of young players to work from. I just think it might be a little too optimistic to think that all of our problems are going to be solved in free agency this offseason.

Posted by: wet blanket | April 5, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

The way the salary structure is with this team, Kolzig will obviously be the #1 next year, and after that he may be gone (tho who would replace him is anyone's guess, because nobody in the system is likely to be ready). While he has given up some soft goals during his career his overall #'s are still acceptable for this team. Is he overpaid? Almost without doubt. That said, he is 1 game under .500 on a team that is 11 games under .500 (excluding all the OT/SO losses). And he has a top 8 save % in the Eastern conference, if we really want to get specific about where he fits on the goalie hierarchy.

If he puts up the same save % next season as this season, and the right moves are made around him, this can be a playoff team. And THEN we can watch that 3-1 series lead against the Pens disappear. :-)

Posted by: Jeff | April 5, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

You could be right, but I think that the Caps will be able to land a top flight guy if the money is right. Imagine that you are a center and are told you will be between ovie and semin and you have a nice big bonus for assists and/or points? Sounds good to me. They may have to pay a bit of a premium over some other more established teams, but I don't think players will not want to come here. Besides, as Tarik has pointed out, the practice facility is top notch. Also, if you're an international player, you sure couldn't ask for a better city to play in. plus, players in this town can go out and eat in public and not get harassed by crazed fans like in Canadian cities or original six towns.

Posted by: Cap Fan 1 | April 5, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"It's the Finn-Caphcky game!"

I don't even participate in a thread and I get called out....ROFLMAO

I must be INSIDE slappy's head, and THERE'S ALOT OF ROOM IN HERE!

Posted by: caphcky | April 5, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

So, its a busy night at the bar on wednesday. No one is paying attention to the Caps game on the TV except the guy who works at the bar and me. The yuppie couple sitting on the same bench in their own booth dont seem to get why I'm yelling expletives at the TV.

And then the Caps go up, and me and my boy are high fiving and feeling good. End of the game, we're standing there, watching the 6 on 3 and just screaming for the Caps to hold on. And they do.

He turns to me and says "You know you're a hockey fan when you still get excited about a meaningless game. Hell, we didnt even get to play spoiler in this game. But we won."

I know there is a lot of doom and gloom on this blog, but I still have a feeling the Caps are going to win a lot more in the next couple years.

Posted by: the cheat | April 5, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

the cheat -- nice story... i too was intently watching the game, getting really excited yelling at the tv. Only reason why I do it, is cause I love this team and I love hockey.

You are not alone my friend.

When Steckel missed that one timer from petty with 3 minutes left, I thought I was going to throw up. But they held on.

I forgot how much it means to watch Meaningful Caps Hockey games.

until next year...

Posted by: Go Skins Go | April 5, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

To the cheat:

I hope you are correct my Brother.
It's easy to be pessimistic when you've been dissapointed so many seasons before.

Here's to another '98!

Posted by: Pete | April 5, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse the way,
Is it just me, or did Steckel look like he had a pretty good game?

Posted by: Pete | April 5, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Why hasn't Steckel been brought up more this year? Just wondering, I am sure there is a simple answer.

Posted by: On Ice | April 5, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Robert Lang was a damned good FA signing. For some reason people think he was a bust just because he got traded.

He had 74 points (29/45) in 63 games at the time of the trade. I have no idea where people get the idea that he was a bust from...

Posted by: signorfromage | April 5, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

to clarify on the last post: I'm not referring to anyone here. I'm talking about Ted/GMGM's use of him as an example of how we need to be more careful with FAs, and by extension their Kool-Aid drinkers. The Cassidy/Jagr team was a disaster and would have been a disaster no matter what.

Posted by: signorformaggio | April 5, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Trashing Atlanta in their home rink is always sweet, and probably not sweeter than at the end of this troubled season. But the Caps almost did themselves in again - like they did in Boston just two weeks ago, and Tampa too - with needless penalties. The feed by Johnson with just seconds on the clock - right to a Thrasher - almost cooked his own goose. Luckily, this time, the penalties were killed (6 on 3) and the win came. And all of this WITHOUT Semin or Schultz! They really can work when they decide to, and will continue to improve. A real centering quarterback on the offense could take the talent already there to the next level, and we hope that Teddy and George do some serious soul searching on that one over the summer.

Who knows, maybe the locker room doors should be closed a little more often! It seems to have provided a much needed kick in the tail the gang needed!

Posted by: DogDaze | April 5, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I have no control over the Lecavalier quote. it's there until i write another note. and i have no control over that, either. sorry.

Posted by: Tarik | April 5, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I personally think that the main problem with the Cassidy era team was coaching. I thought Lang was great!! On paper, we looked great and I still think the potential was there but Butch was not the right fit here -or anywhere :). We had a ferrari team with spare tires. If you are going to spend in the free agent market - make sure to look at the whole picture. Hopefully Teddy/McPhee will address ALL our needs.

Posted by: cs | April 5, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Tarik, any news on Semin? Thanks

Posted by: kenhockey | April 5, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The Caps also briefly had Michael Nylander during the Jagr era. If anything the Caps could really be faulted for at that time was a) choice of coach (Cassidy) and b) seriously neglecting their defensive corps at the same time they were beefing up on offense. Oh and there's always a c) the curse of Scott Stevens ;)

Was looking for some perspective the other day from one of our arch rivals, the Penguins. Their recent history aside, I went back and looked at when Mario came into the league. It took the Pens FIVE YEARS after he was drafted to finally make the playoffs. And that was when a higher percentage of teams qualified than today. Imagine what his attitude must have been like during that time, being the "force of nature" that he was.

So, if the Caps do as advertised this summer(which of course remains to be seen), and actually do make the playoffs next year, Ovie will have the great Lemieux beaten by two years in making the playoffs so early in his career with a rebuilding team. Even if they don't make the playoffs, they're still within a comparable window of time for building a team of similar caliber capable of winning a Cup.

Yes, losing still sucks, but honestly, the Caps have never had a player of Ovie's stature on the roster (with apologies to great players like Gartner, Langway and Stevens). I find it hard to believe that Ted and GMGM would willingly squander this marvelous opportunity to build around him (their competency to do so certainly remains debatable). So I'm willing to wait and see what transpires this summer with an optimistic outlook. What else can I do? I am a hopelessly masochistic Caps fan and effective medication is still years away :)!

Posted by: Geauxcaps | April 5, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The first year Lang was with Washington he was the last on the ice and the first off. He seemed to take shifts off all the time. The next year he was great. I remember Jagr sitting out because of a hangnail and when asked, on tv, about it he said that sometimes "you just have to be a man". That was the moment I began having more faith in Lang. He played pretty well that season.

I was watching the game at work last night and someone turned to me and asked why I still cared, as the Caps were out of the playoffs. I just can't identify with that mentality. Nice to know I ain't the only one.

By the way, Ovie was great last night but Gordon was very good as well. I'm glad he's pulling through. He has a good +/- on a losing team and that says a lot for a checking line center. His face off skills are only going to get better, which thrills me. By the end of next year, Gordon will be a Capital Hero, mark my words.

1 more game. sigh.

Posted by: Kerplunk | April 5, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Just checked on Semin. No one skated today. So he's still day-to-day. We'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Posted by: Tarik | April 5, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Tarik. Appreciate the info.

Posted by: kenhockey | April 5, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

How much influence do you think Ovie will have in acquiring a top center in the offseason?

Do you think they would let him in on a decision between Player A or Player B?

Will he be encouraged to personally talk to players about coming to play for the Caps?

Posted by: slappy | April 5, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

When Jagr came Peter Bondra's career started to go downhill. And as said earlier,once we got Jagr the focus on d started to decrease. And throghout ron Wilson's career here we were a defensive minded team.And when JAgr cam ethe focus switvhed form D to O.

Posted by: mac c | April 5, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

To "The Cheat," nice story...

As a Capitals fan in Chattanooga, I got to be at the game in ATL last night. was so sweet when AO caught fire ... and to hear the warmweather Thrasher fans boo at the end of the 2P.

As the sad-faced ATL fans filed out, one Thrashers fan walked by me and said, "Good game."

I replied, "Good game .. good luck in the playoffs."

But I didn't mean it :)

Posted by: Cerealman | April 5, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: the cheat | April 5, 2007 11:35 AM

Haha...I had the same experience. I was in a bar and no one was paying any attention to the game.I was hooting, hollering, covering my eyes at one point, and pretty much embarrassing the friend who was with me.

It was a great win!

Posted by: LB | April 5, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

hey slappy, great question. i would be surprised if ovie wasn't asked about available players. i'm pretty sure that the teams can "officially" talk w/ UFA's until 7/1. doesn't mean a player can't have a friendly conversation with a friend about things. for example, one russian left wing to his russian-center pal who will be a UFA this year...alot of these guys are going to play together in the worlds and i have no doubt there's conversations like that going on...all unofficial of course...

Posted by: ovie influence | April 5, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Somehow I think Datsyuk will be a bit busy when World's start.

Maybe they'll ask Ovie, but I don't see him being the deal maker or break opinion. That's GMGM's job. Also, it's entirely possible we may not have a huge FA signing, but that we may pull off a big trade involving some of the prospects. The summer's wide open.

Hey guys and gals, seriously, can we act like adults, please?

Posted by: EricS | April 5, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Lang and Nylander were damn good Caps.

I agree with Tarik's assessment of Ovie's play 100%. For a few weeks straight Ovechkin was skating 1 on 4 every time down the ice. At full speed, mind, but no creativity. Semin was playing out of his head in that way. Just a shame about his penalties and petulance at times. Love 'em both though.

One factor that helps us with FAs now...the salary cap. We've got room to offer more than other teams. That's why it's a warning sign that that GMGM stated they had folks slated for certain cost. The Caps aren't getting people based on perceived value, playing with Ovie, practicing at Kettler...they're getting people only if they drop the most $. As long as they don't sign them at big money for 7 seasons we'll be fine. You can cut/trade FAs and it don't matter - you lose nothing unless you're on the hook for way too many seasons. $ ain't the issue though.

Posted by: Shmoo | April 5, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

schmoo, what do you mean when you say you can cut/trade FA's and it doesnt matter? doesn't it cause the cap number to balloon? if you sign a guy for $20 for 5 years and blow him out after 2 years, doesnt the remaining $12M/ hit your cap?

i'm familiar w/ the nfl cap but maybe the nhl is different. are nhl deal guaranteed beyond the signing bonus? maybe tarik or others in the know can provide some nhl salary cap 101.

Posted by: salary cap | April 6, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

IIRC NHL contracts are fully guaranteed. There's no acceleration of money, so Jagr still counts against our payroll.

Posted by: tallbear | April 6, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I believe you can buy out NHL contracts for 2/3's of their value, but I could be wrong.

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | April 6, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

tall bear,so in my previous example, if you sign a guy for $20/5, he counts for $4m under the cap for all 5 years regardless of whether he's playing for you or not? i thought jagr was still on our payroll because we were so desperate to get rid of him we agreed to do so as a condition of the trade. without that, he would have been all the rangers headache.

Posted by: salary cap | April 6, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Datsyuk is a no-go. Detroit is going to announce that they've just signed him to a multi-year contract extension

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

good that detroit signed him, i can never spell his name correctly anyway...seriously, the length of the deal is suprising, but the per year salary isn't all that outrageous. at least it gives ted and gmgm a peak at what FA's are going to cost this summer.

Posted by: datsyuk | April 6, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The Jagr trade was completed prior to the new CBA. In the new CBA I believe (someone else can confirm) that teams are not allowed to pay a portion of the contract of a traded player, as the case was with Jagr. The Caps-Rangers deal was allowed because it was completed prior to the new rule in the new CBA.

Like I wrote previously, I believe players can be bought out of their contracts for 2/3 of there value, not sure how it effects the salary cap though.

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | April 6, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

salary cap: From my reading off websites, if you sign a guy for 5 years at $20mil, he'll count exactly 4 mil against the cap for 5 years (no bonuses in hockey). The only way to change his cap hit is to trade him and have the other team assume his contract. If the player retires, he still counts against your cap for the duration of the contract (unlike the NFL, there's no acceleration). You're right, I believe Ted is paying part of Jagr's salary as part of the trade. So the trick, as Shmoo put it, is to not sign guys for say, 15 years, if you even think they might decline.

Posted by: tallbear | April 6, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Heh, yeah no 15 year contracts Islanders style. And yes that's exactly what I meant tallbear. You can overpay for an FA, just don't sign him for more than 3 years. Honestly that might be about the sweet spot for anyone interested in signing with the Caps anyway. They get big money and know that if the team struggles they won't be stuck here forever. The Caps can't afford to sign multiple long-term deals. They have to plan for keeping Ovie and Semin in the house.

I also hope that seeing Datsyuk's contract will wake up Sweaty Teddy as to how winners get it done. We're not going to get a top line center at a discount.

Posted by: Shmoo | April 6, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

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