NBC Analyst's 'Awful' Alex Ovechkin Comments Are Spot-On

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NBC Analyst's 'Awful' Alex Ovechkin Comments  Are Spot-On
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NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury is not one to shy away from letting his audience know exactly what he thinks of certain NHL players' and teams' performances when analyzing the sport between periods or after the game.

During the second intermission of Wednesday's game between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers (Philly would win 4-1), Milbury harshly criticized Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin for what he called "an awful display of hockey."

Here is the full video:

Wow, Mike, tell us how you really feel.

There were a few specific things that Milbury points out in the video, including poor passing from behind the net, a lack of toughness, embellishing after drawing a high-sticking penalty, poor back-checking and coming off the ice for a line change when he should have been helping his team defensively in its own zone.

Regardless of your opinion on Milbury, he is 100 percent correct about everything he said about Ovechkin from last night's game.

Is Ovechkin the worst captain in the NHL?

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The effort that Ovechkin has given the Capitals this season has been embarrassing, and it's safe to say that he is the worst captain in the NHL. There's no debate.

No other captain plays the game as lazily as Ovechkin. Captains such as Jonathan Toews and Ryan Callahan give 100 percent on every single shift and never refuse to play defense.

Unfortunately for the Capitals, Ovechkin's problems go far beyond wearing the "C"—taking that letter from his sweater probably isn't going to change the way he plays or his attitude on the ice.

To win in the playoffs, teams must play well defensively, and forwards have to play a major role in their club's defensive game plan by blocking shots, back-checking and being responsible in the attacking zone by not turning the puck over in bad areas.

Ovechkin does none of these things, and when your best players refuse to play just as hard defensively as they do in the attacking zone, it sends the wrong message, especially to the younger players.

When Dale Hunter was hired to replace Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau in November, he reduced Ovechkin's ice time and even benched him for long periods during games because of his star's lackluster performance and effort defensively.

The ploy ended up working, as Washington upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs and nearly upset the New York Rangers in the conference semifinals, losing in Game 7.

Don't expect rookie head coach Adam Oates to bench Ovechkin, especially when his team is sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with 15 points (six behind a playoff spot).

Oates is under too much pressure to make the playoffs, so he's basically in a no-win situation. He cannot send a message to his team by benching Ovechkin, because it needs the star winger's offensive talent to score goals, especially when the goaltending is not up to par.

Trading Ovechkin is the only way for the Capitals to move forward and build a real championship team, but unfortunately for general manager George McPhee, his star player's contract is one of the toughest to move in the league.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Ovechkin's deal still has eight years and $79 million left on it, including a gigantic $9.54 million salary cap hit (via Capgeek). His salary in the final seven years of his contract is $10 million. There are very few teams that can afford that type of contract and still build a competitive team, and even fewer with the salary cap space to even entertain the possibility of acquiring Ovechkin.

With that said, don't expect Ovechkin to leave Washington anytime soon. The only logical way for Ovechkin and the Capitals to part ways in the near future is if he decides to go to the KHL permanently.

If Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who has been a huge Ovechkin supporter since the Russian star arrived in Washington almost a decade ago, can get out of this contract and let his star go to the KHL, he must do it. His team is never going to win its first Stanley Cup with Ovechkin as the captain and/or the main superstar.

In the meantime, the Capitals will not contend for a playoff spot in 2013 if their best player and captain does not give maximum effort at both ends of the ice each night. Ovechkin must play better, or the Capitals will be one of the first teams in the NHL to fall out of the playoff race in this shortened season.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.

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