This was the year where the Capitals were supposed to take a good run in the playoffs. The young team had playoff experience from last year, more balanced offense, the highest scoring defenseman in the league, and goal tending that should be "good enough." Most of all, they have Alexander Ovechkin, the consensus choice for the NHL's best player and MVP.
What happened? Ovechkin made headlines by not scoring in the first three games of the series, and of course the Capitals lost games one and two at home. Is it possible that Ovechkin has choked a little under all of the pressure?
When you compare his stats from the regular season to his stats from the playoffs, there is a potential argument that he has. Ovechkin has two goals in the series, obviously well behind his regular season pace where he had 56 goals in 79 games. He has been averaging 1.2 points per game, which is behind his regular season pace of 1.4 points per game.
Defensively he has played well in the post-season, making some strong plays and achieving a plus four, versus a plus six over the entire regular season. He has also peppered shots on goal, going from his 6.7 pace, far and away the highest in the regular season of any player, to a remarkable 7.6 shots per game average.
So, overall, it seems Ovechkin is pretty close to his regular season pace. He has achieved stats far superior to any teammate or Ranger, and has been the dominant skater on the ice every game. So, does all the blame for the Capitals predicament go to Mike Green, Jose Theodore, and other underachieving Caps?
Ovechkin is in fact having a great series, but he is not the MVP of the series and not the best player. Both of those titles go to Henrik Lundqvist, who has been Ovechkin’s nemesis this round. It is Lundqvist who has stopped all those shots from Ovechkin and his teammates, allowing his team to remarkably split the last four games while scoring only three goals.
For Ovechkin to show that he is the best, not only in the regular season but especially when it counts most, he needs to find a way to solve for Lundqvist. That’s what the best do.
He also clearly needs to help the Capitals to a stronger power play. The Ranger penalty killing has been excellent, and it is up to Ovechkin (and coach Boudreau) to lead the team to get a couple this afternoon if the Rangers take six or more penalties.
Ovechkin has been great this series. Now it is up to him to show whether he is the best.