Alexander Ovechkin Sinking and the Washington Capitals with Him: NHL

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIINovember 21, 2011

WINNIPEG, CANADA - NOVEMBER 17: The Hockey News writer Ken Campbell (C) in on an interview with Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals in the locker room after the team was defeated by the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 at the MTS Centre on November 17, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Question:  Which team has been projected to win it all, but is really over-rated?


1. San Diego Chargers during the "Air Coryell" years and now during the Norv Turner years.

2. Any NFL team coached by Chuck Knox, Jim Mora and Marty Schottenheimer.

3. The Toronto Argonauts during the Leo Cahill years.

4. The Buffalo Sabres during the French Connection years.

5. The Washington Capitals during the Alexander Ovechkin years.

Actually, this list could go on and on almost without end and include teams, players and coaches from other sports.  There are far more teams and players on it than there are on a champions list.

Right now in the NHL, the leading candidate on the list is the Washington Captials. The problem centres around Alexander Ovechkin, not coach Bruce Boudreau, as myth would have it.

There was a recent article in a local Toronto newspaper about Ovechkin's decline and as if to confirm it, the Capitals played their nadir game of the season so far. They were slaughtered 7-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team considered the opposite of an offensive powerhouse with seven regulars missing and with now questionable goaltending.

Ovechkin was nearly invisible in the contest.  Star players are expected to perform like star players, but Ovechkin is now a ghost of what he was projected to be.

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 11:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals gestures against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on November 11, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

After starting the season 7-0, the Capitals have dropped four in a row. Now doubts are being raised about if they will even make the playoffs, never mind winning the Stanley Cup.

Most Washington fans are calling for the head of Boudreau but it's Ovechkin who should be examined.

Instead of getting better as he is nearing his peak years, he is getting worse.  It has been projected that if he continues at his present rate, he will match last year's total of 33 goals.

Ovechkin is a unique story so far in NHL history.  He entered the NHL along with Sidney Crosby and there was immediate speculation about who was better.

For the first time ever with the exception of Jaromir Jagr, a European was projected as the best player in the NHL.

For the first time, there was to be an international rivalry between two players on the scale of the Howe-Richard rivalry of the 1950s.

For the first time, there was a possibility that Canada might not have the best player in the world or in the NHL.

Nobody would compare Ovechkin with Crosby any more.  After their one playoff meeting, any series between them now would be anti-climatic.

Since Crosby's concussion, Ovechkin has had the NHL to himself to prove his dominance but he has become a question mark instead.

VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 29: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal while Keith Ballard #4 of the Vancouver Canucks  skates past during the first period in NHL action on October 29, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Washington has yet to even make the Eastern Conference Final.

As for personal rivalries, Crosby needs to watch out for Steve Stamkos, Tyler Seguin, one of the Edmonton boys and even his own team-mate Evgeni Malkin.

There is speculation as to whether Ovechkin is even the best Russian any more.  Certainly Malkin has a case.

For proof that the Washington problem is mostly Ovechkin, not Boudreau, in 2010, consider the Ovechkin-led Russian national team played the worst game in Russian/Soviet hockey history against Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, since the Russians started playing against Canadian professionals in 1972.

Nobody knows the reason for Ovechkin's decline.

The Capitals were spinning their wheels and Boudreau was brought in to change things.

He turned things around and marched the team toward the playoffs, only to lose a shocking series to the lowly underdog Montreal Canadiens and then a tough series to a rising Tampa Bay Lightning team.

Except for the New York Rangers, the Capitals can beat no one in the playoffs.

This year, the corruption has reared its ugly head early during the regular season instead of the playoffs when things get tougher.

The one constant in these years has been Ovechkin's inability to produce the big game when it's needed most.

Crosby and Malkin can retire with their laurels and Stanley Cup.

Ovechkin plays on like a riddle and nobody has any idea of the answer. 


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