The NHL regular season is two days away.
Which means Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin is two days away from tearing apart defenses across North America.
Ovechkin, although only 25, has had a rough go of it the past few seasons when it comes to team success. The Capitals were ousted in seven games by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008, lost a battle to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in seven games in 2009, and suffered one of the worst upsets in NHL playoff history when the Montreal Canadiens shocked them in seven games (seriously, no one expected them to win).
But, as you well know, Ovechkin's personal success has been mind-blowing. In his five seasons in the NHL, all with the Capitals, he's only scored under 50 goals once (46 in 2006-07). With 269 goals in his first five, he seems like a virtual lock to score 500 before he even turns 30 years old.
Here's a short laundry list of what you can expect from Ovechkin and his surroundings this season.
Hart Trophy (MVP)
Ovechkin won the Hart back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009 and was a candidate for it again last season, except Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks swooped in and stole it with his career year of 112 points.
While Ovechkin will have to deal with the likes of Sedin and Sidney Crosby for MVP honors, Ovechkin is the only lock out of those three to score 50 goals, which gives him more than a puncher's chance at the award.
A Hungrier Ovechkin
I personally didn't think this was possible, but it probably has to happen. Ovechkin is currently suffering from the "LeBron James effect" in which the best player in the league, on one of the best regular season teams in the league, can't win in the postseason.
Ovechkin is compared to Crosby tirelessly, and while Ovechkin's personal stats might be right up there with Crosby's, Sidney has a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal to his credit. Don't think Ovechkin doesn't know that, and will show up to play every single night, especially when the Pittsburgh Penguins are in town.
No Holding Back
Ovechkin has been criticized for playing "too" hard at times. He was suspended twice last season for a knee-to-knee hit on Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason and a dangerous hit from behind into the boards on Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell.
While Ovechkin is called "reckless" at times, it's just his style. It's unrealistic to expect him to keep up his current numbers while not playing with the same tenacity. So don't expect Alex to obey the critics and take it a little easy...well, ever.
A Playoff Run...Maybe?
As stated, Ovechkin and the Caps have not had much postseason success under his wing. The East has some beasts Washington will need to take out in order to make it anywhere in the playoffs this year.
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are always a tough customer when the postseason comes along, and even though they've lost in the first round the past three seasons, the New Jersey Devils improved vastly this offseason, and will have sniper Ilya Kovalchuk for a full season this time.
But a team as talented as the Caps, with Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green supporting Ovechkin, it's hard to see them not making a run anytime soon. For the past few years, hot goaltending has been one of the keys to postseason success, so in that area Washington just needs to hope they get a little luck.
So what can you expect from Ovechkin this season? A lot of the same. A lot of goals, a lot of hustle, and a playoff berth for his Washington Capitals. Assuming all goes to plan, you'll probably also see a third Hart Trophy.
Can you expect a Stanley Cup run? We'll have to see about that.
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