Washington Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin has taken on a huge brunt of the criticism for the team's playoff failures in recent years. The Caps were ousted in the first round again in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, but reports have leaked that might let fans cut the 27-year-old Russian some slack.
According to team sources speaking to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, Ovechkin fractured his left foot in the first period of Game 6 against the New York Rangers:
In the first period of Game 6, Ovechkin blocked two shots by Rangers’ defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The first shot, at 14:29 of the first, struck his left foot. Replay of the game shows Ovechkin hesitant to get up after that block.
Skating could not make the injury worse, the source said, so Ovechkin played with it through the rest of Game 6 and Game 7 against the Rangers. The fracture will only require rest to heal, the source said.
Yahoo! Sports' Dmitry Chesnokov posted a replay of the injury on Twitter after the Post report was released:
After a goal and an assist in the first two games of the first-round series, Ovechkin would not register another point during the Caps' final five games. As mentioned by ESPN's Stats & Info, it's the longest drought of his NHL career:
Alex Ovechkin: no points in last 4 games; he's never gone 5 straight games without a point in regular season or playoffs (via @eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 13, 2013
Ovie also had just one shot in Washington's Game 7 loss to New York.
Washington has been to the postseason six consecutive times, but has failed to get past the second round in any of those appearances. This year's first-round exit marks the third such end to the season during that span.
He spoke to reporters on Tuesday after the Caps had been sent home for good and acknowledged that the lack of postseason success has been wearing on him in recent years. It's likely part of the reason he decided to avoid telling the press about the injury in the first place, or even contemplating missing the final two games.
Here's several Ovechkin quotes about Washington's playoff failures (via ESPN):
Nobody remember losers, the Russian wing said Tuesday. Everybody remember only winners...In the playoffs, it doesn't matter if you score or not. You have to win. Team success is the most important thing out there...I didn't score and we lose. I score, we lose...Everybody have to make a difference.
Ovechkin was also critical of the officiating throughout the series, feeling that the NHL wanted to see the Rangers move on—at least, that's what it felt like to Ovechkin after being on the ice and watching some of the calls unfold. As Andrew Brandt put it on Twitter, the tone in his voice on Tuesday was one that takes a shot at the league over the officials:
Ovechkin on NHL favoring Rangers "I'm not saying there was a call from the NHL" Translation: "I'm saying there was a call from the NHL"— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) May 14, 2013
As the Post report suggests, Ovechkin's foot will require rest—not surgery—before it is back to 100 percent. He was back on the ice on Thursday regardless, as he and his Russian teammates suffered an 8-3 loss to Team USA in the quarterfinals of the World Championships.
Pierre LeBrun reported that Ovechkin was named the best Russian player for his efforts against the U.S.:
Ovechkin, with a goal and an assist, was selected best player for Russia in today's QF loss to Team USA— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 16, 2013
Completing another standout season, Ovechkin led the NHL in goals (32), goals created (24.3) and power-play goals (16), doing so in all 48 games of the lockout-shortened season. He helped Washington earn the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and was also third in total points among qualified NHL players.