7 years ago today, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby both netted dualing hat tricks in Game 2 of the 2009 Semifinals. It was one of the greatest games in the Ovechkin era for the Washington Capitals. The Capitals ended up winning that game 4-3.
Fast forward 7 years, to Game 4 of Round 2 where the Capitals and Penguins are in the middle of having another memorable playoff series. The Penguins currently have a 2-1 series lead in this best of 7. The Capitals played one of their best games in the playoffs in Game 3 and dominated the Penguins territorially. However, it was the Penguins who prevailed in Game 3 as they won the game 3-2.
Alex Ovechkin had a dominant performance in Game 3. He tallied a goal and 2 points. He also registered 7 shots and 9 hits in the game. He was a man on a mission, and was destroying every Penguins player standing in his way.
The pressure has been on Alex Ovechkin to bring a Stanley Cup to Washington D.C. ever since the superstar stepped foot onto NHL ice. But with all the pressure, Alex Ovechkin always seems to come up big, and he thrives under pressure. The Capitals had a historical season in 2015-16. The franchise set new records, and Alex Ovechkin recorded another 50-goal season. The Stanley Cup window is open now for the Capitals and the players understand what the situation is.
Game 4 is a must-win for the Capitals organization. The Capitals do not want to head back to Game 5 in DC down 3-1 in the series. It is hard to win games in the playoffs, and it is difficult to overcome huge deficits.
One may argue that Game 4 could be a defining game in Ovechkin’s legacy. The success and failure of the Washington Capitals is attached to Alex Ovechkin, since he is the face of the franchise.
It is unfair to pin one game on one player’s shoulders. The beautiful thing about the game of hockey is that it is a team sport. Teams win and lose as a group.
Game 4 will be a test for all of the Capitals players. If the pressure is going to be on any of the players in particular, it will be on the Capitals core group of veteran players, who have grown up in the Capitals system. These core players include Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, and Braden Holtby. It is gut-check time for these born and bred Capitals. These players have all been through the previous playoff failures for the Capitals, and they know how it feels to be disappointed.
Rocky Balboa once said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
The Capitals core group of players have been hit many times. They have been beaten and left disappointed and angry. It is time for the core group to channel that anger and burning desire to win and they need to unleash their fury on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Alex Ovechkin can thrive in the big game setting. Now it is time to see if the other Washington Capitals players will do the same and follow Ovechkin’s lead. Ovechkin can only do but so much, so it is time for others to step up.
By: George Foussekis