Washington Capitals: 5 Reasons Alex Ovechkin Is Still the Franchise Player

Ryan DavenportContributor IJune 15, 2012

Washington Capitals: 5 Reasons Alex Ovechkin Is Still the Franchise Player

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    The Washington Capitals' run through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs ended in bitter disappointment, as the Caps once again failed to advance beyond the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

    In each of the past five seasons, Alex Ovechkin has been the subject of much criticism, especially because this time around, he wasn't the focal point of the Capitals' game plan like he was in previous years. 

    Though there is no denying the fact that Ovechkin hasn't been able to help his team reach its ultimate goal, he wasn't given the sort of ice time he's received in the past, and it's unfair to heap blame upon a player that simply wasn't on the ice as much as he needs to be. 

    Now, with the Caps set to hire the team's newest bench boss in less than a year, Ovechkin will once again be in the spotlight as Washington will attempt to build upon the reasonable amount of success the team enjoyed during Dale Hunter's postseason debut. 

    With that in mind, here are five reasons to believe that Ovechkin is still the Capitals' franchise player. 

Delivering When It Counts

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    In the final couple of weeks of the 2011-12 regular season, Ovechkin's Capitals appeared on the verge of falling out of the Playoff race, especially after a devastating 5-1 loss on home ice to the Buffalo Sabres on March 27th.  The loss left the Caps trailing the Sabres for the eighth and final postseason berth, with only five games remaining for each team. 

    Nonetheless, Ovechkin helped the Caps go 4-1 over those last five games, posting two goals and two assists during the four games the Caps won, and Washington secured the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. 

    In fact, Ovechkin's play during the team's last 10 games was a big reason the Caps were even able to stay afloat, as the captain notched eight goals during that time. 

    While Ovechkin's overall numbers aren't what they once were, he continues to be the team's most dangerous player during do-or-die situations. 

The Playoff Factor

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    Many people forget that when it comes to his career numbers, not many have produced at the level that Ovechkin has during his five postseason appearances. 

    In 59 career Playoff games, Ovechkin has a sizzling 59 points, including 30 goals, which is a franchise record.  No, his 2012 Playoff performance wasn't his best from a statistical standpoint, but even with decreased ice time, he still led the team in goals and points, and many of his tallies came in clutch situations. 

    In fact, the 2012 postseason was the first time that Ovechkin failed to score at a point per game pace, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that the superstar received less ice time than ever before.

Skill Does Not Disappear

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    Players of Ovechkin's caliber don't come around very often.  Not many in NHL history have scored at the clip that "the Great Eight" has during the first seven seasons of his career, and the type of skill required to fill nets like he has doesn't disappear in a year's time. 

    No, Ovechkin hasn't hit the 50, or even 40-goal mark in either of the past two seasons.  He has, however, averaged 35 goals and 73 points during that span, which, for almost anyone else in the league would be considered successful campaigns. 

    At the stage, Ovechkin still has the skill and physical gifts that enabled him to become the game's most dominant scorer since Mario Lemieux, but should the Russian sniper really be focused on individual milestones if a Stanley Cup is what he yearns for the most? 

    The answer to that question is a resounding no, and if Ovechkin hopes to deliver the city of Washington its first Cup, he'll need to be using his considerable talents to do more than simply light the lamp. 

His Passion Is Infectious

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    One aspect of Ovechkin's game that remains unmistakable is how passionate he is on the ice, which is something that rubs off on his teammates.

    The joy Ovechkin displays during celebrations is on display no matter which member of the Capitals put the puck in the net.  Though known for going a little over the top at times, he does the same when his teammates score (as can be seen here when tackling Sergei Fedorov), which breeds passion within the Caps' locker room. 

    Sometimes Ovechkin's relentless passion can result in him taking ill-advised penalties, but that's simply a byproduct of how much he cares. 

He's One of the Most Clutch Players in Hockey

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    It's a little-known stat, but since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005-06, no player has scored more overtime goals than the 26-year-old superstar. 

    During that time, Ovechkin has scored 12 sudden death overtime goals, which is indicative of how clutch he is, at least during the regular season. 

    This year alone, Ovechkin was tied for third among all players with two overtime markers, and although he has yet to cash in during an extra session during the postseason, one cannot ignore how often Ovechkin is the difference-maker.