Washington Capitals: 10 Reasons Ovechkin and Green Can Lead Them to the Cup
But with Alexander Semin departing for the Carolina Hurricanes, and Nicklas Backstrom receiving less scrutiny as to his productivity and effectiveness, the focus shifts to "The Great Eight" and "Game Over Green".
Can these two finally lead their team to hockey's Promised Land?
Here are 10 reasons why Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green can lead the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup title.
10. Healthy Mike Green
When healthy, Mike Green is a vital part of the Washington Capitals' offense.
During the 2008-09 season, Mike Green averaged 1.07 points per game in 68 games. In 2009-10, Green averaged 1.01 points per game in 75 games.
But over the last two seasons, Mike Green has had trouble staying healthy, dealing with a variety of injuries including those to his shoulder and knee, along with multiple concussions. As a result his production has suffered, and so has the Capitals' offense. Green averaged .49 points per game in 49 games in 2010-11, and only 0.22 points per game in 32 games in 2011-12.
The Capitals may have taken a big gamble in counting on Green staying healthy when they signed him to a contract extension this summer. Green hopes to make that gamble pay off.
9. Resurgent Alex Ovechkin
Like Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin saw his productivity plummet during the last two seasons.
After averaging 0.71 goals per game in 2008-09 and 0.69 goals per game in 2009-10, Ovechkin averaged only 0.41 goals per game in 2010-11 and 0.49 goals per game in 2011-12.
But unlike Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin's dip in productivity was not due to injury. Instead, defenders around the league had begun to figure him out. They studied his tendencies and anticipated his moves. As a result, he was not afforded the same scoring opportunities as earlier in his career and in turn, his scoring output suffered.
But during the 2011-12 season, Alex Ovechkin showed signs of life. He changed his tendencies and even tried new maneuvers on the ice. This opened up more scoring opportunities and his goal output rose form the year before.
If Alex Ovechkin continues this upward trend, it will bode well for the Capitals, during the regular and post seasons.
8. No More Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin was one the four original "Young Guns".
In his seven years in Washington, he scored 197 goals over 469 games. "Mister Wrister" endeared himself to DC fans with his wicked wrist shots and ridiculous curl-and-drags.
But Sasha had his drawbacks too. He took untimely penalties, underperformed in the playoffs, and was an annual distraction regarding his contract negotiations. The Capitals finally parted ways with him this summer, and he then signed with the division rival Carolina Hurricanes.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green can use Semin's absence to further step up their games. Together, the pair can fill the scoring void caused by Semin's departure and the team as a whole may improve as a result.
7. Healthy Nicklas Backstrom
The fourth and final "Young Gun", Nicklas Backstrom had a rough year last year.
The 24-year-old missed 40 games in 2011-12 due to a concussion sustained at the hands of Rene Bourque, who was with the Calgary Flames at the time.
Backstrom came back from the injury in time for the playoffs, but then missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals after protecting his head from constant harassment by the Boston Bruins.
Throughout all this, the Caps missed the Swedish pivot. His absence was most glaring when it came to the production of the power play in general and Alex Ovechkin specifically. Both should see marked improvement with a healthy Nick Backstrom back in the lineup.
With a full season under his belt, the Caps can be firing on all cylinders when the 2012-13 postseason rolls around.
6. Adam Oates
Adam Oates has never been a head coach in the NHL. In fact, he has never been a head coach at any level. His coaching style is still largely unknown.
But Adam Oates was an offensive-minded player, tallying 1,079 assists and 1,420 points in his 19-year NHL career, including parts of six seasons with the Capitals. He should help the Washington Capitals, especially Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green, return to at least a semblance of the high-flying offense they enjoyed under Bruce Boudreau. Thankfully, Oates should place more of an emphasis on defense than Gabby ever did.
But most importantly, Oates' specialty as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils was the power play, a strength of both Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green.
5. Powerful Power Play
To say that Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green excel on the power play would be an understatement.
Alex Ovechkin has scored 339 career goals in his seven-year career and 111 have come on the power play, or 33 percent of his total goals.
Mike Green has benefited even more from the man advantage during his career. In seven years in the NHL, Green has 82 total goals and 44 of them, a staggering 54 percent, have come on the power play.
But last season, Ovechkin scored 13 power play goals, which is tied for the second lowest total in his career. Mike Green has been injured for most of the last two seasons, but between the two campaigns, he has played 81 games, roughly equal to one full season. In that time span, Mike Green has totaled only eight power play goals, which would equal his lowest total since 2007-08.
With the hiring of Adam Oates and the return of a healthy Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green can return to their dominance on the power play. And this will in turn power the Washington Capitals to new levels of success.
4. Strike-Shortened Season
As negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA continue to falter ahead of the September 15 deadline, a loss of at least a few NHL regular season games seems inevitable at this point.
But as long as the season is not completely canceled, this could actually help the Washington Capitals. Fewer games means less wear and tear on the players, and this would be especially useful to both Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green.
Ovechkin plays a physical style of hockey. For him, fewer games means fewer body blows that he would both dish out and receive.
And for Green, fewer games means less chance of another injury.
The end result will be that both Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green will be fresher for the playoffs, and can therefore make a deeper run into May, and ultimately June.
3. Learn How to Lose
The Washington Capitals have done plenty of losing in the playoffs recently.
The Caps have made the playoffs every year since 2007-08. Yet they have little to show for it.
During this six-year stretch, they were eliminated in the first round twice, once while they were the No. 1 overall seed in the entire Stanley Cup playoffs. They also were 2-4 in Game 7s.
And most importantly, they never once advanced past the Conference Semifinals.
But while suffering all this heartbreak, the Washington Capitals learned valuable lessons along the way.
2. Before You Learn How to Win
The Washington Capitals' postseason lessons in losing began to translate to lessons in winning last season.
Facing the No. 2 seed Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals upset the defending Stanley Cup champions in a classic seven game series that was the only series in Stanley Cup playoff history in which all seven games were decided by only one goal. During the series, the Capitals went 3-1 on the road, never lost two consecutive games, followed both overtime losses with an overtime win, and capped off the series with a thrilling Game 7 overtime victory in Boston's barn.
Despite falling in the next round in another classic seven game series, the Washington Capitals now know how to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It is time for Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and the rest of the Washington Capitals to put their valuable lessons into full practice.
1. Chips on Their Shoulders
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green must be tired of the criticism by now.
Ovechkin is constantly hearing that he will never again be an elite scorer, and that he's not cut out to be a captain.
Green is constantly hearing that he can't stay healthy, and that he's not a good enough defender.
These two Capitals can use this negative reinforcement as their own personal motivation to perform better than they have in the past during the games that really count. This added motivation will be just the fire these two need to fuel their team's drive to Stanley Cup glory.