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Washington went through a transformation this year. Once one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL, they changed gears this year, going with a defensive approach.
Alex Ovechkin bought into this new system and became a very good two-way player. Many wondered if once the playoffs started he would revert to his old way.
In the first round series against the Rangers, he continued his strong two-way play. His metamorphosis is reminiscent of what Steve Yzerman did in the mid 1990’s.
Once a high scoring player himself, he too was convinced to play a two-way game and quickly became one of the top defensive forwards. That change helped start the run of Red Wing Stanley Cup championships.
Ovechkin is following in Yzerman’s footsteps and so far, he’s been doing a great job. He can still be the scoring force that he has always been, but now he doesn’t ignore his defensive responsibilities.
Often considered in the discussion as to who is the best player in the NHL, Ovechkin has lamented that you can’t be considered if you haven’t won a championship. With his nemesis, Sydney Crosby, winning the championship two years ago, Ovechkin has gone all out to finally win his first.
The Caps have a very young defensive duo in John Carlson and Karl Alzner, ages 21 and 22 respectively. Despite their youth, these two have greatly stepped up this year and helped the team become the fourth ranked defense.
Michal Neuvirth is in net, and if the first round is any indication he will be there a long time. Granted, the Rangers are nowhere near what he will face in Round 2, but his dominant performance will give him great confidence as this team continues playing.
With all the young players playing in such big roles, one has to wonder if they have enough experience, not only to play but to handle to pressure that comes with each passing series.