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Alex Ovechkin heard a lot from his critics this season.
On Feb. 27, Mike Milbury said that "when you have great talent, it comes with great expectations and accountability" and that Ovechkin "should be ashamed of himself" (via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post).
But then Ovechkin exploded for 23 goals over the last 23 games of the 2013 regular season, finishing with 32 goals to lead the NHL. He won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, becoming the first player to win the award three times since its inception in 1998-99 (Hockey-Reference.com).
After the Capitals won the Southeast Division for the fifth time in six seasons on the strength of Ovechkin's offensive power surge, Ovechkin told Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington that “it seems like people who been all over me, they can close their mouths.”
Not so fast, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports. Ovechkin's answer only begets more questions:
Oh, Alex Ovechkin is back all right. Back to leading the NHL in goals. Back to leaping into the glass in celebration. Back in the MVP debate with Sidney Crosby and other stars. Back to answering the same old questions about the playoffs. Can he score? Can he sacrifice? Can he be a complete player? Can he make the difference when it matters most? Can he lead the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup?
And now Ovechkin has another critic to answer after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, a 4-3 regulation loss to the New York Rangers on Monday. Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times tweeted a quote from New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was on the ice against Ovechkin for the Rangers' game-winning goal:
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News was disappointed that Ovechkin was not made available for comment on Tuesday to respond to McDonagh's comments:
Rest assured, Ovechkin will provide his response throughout the course of the Stanley Cup playoffs, starting with Game 4 against the Rangers.