Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals headed into T-Mobile Arena for practice Sunday afternoon. As players were getting their pads and jerseys on before entering the ice, Ovechkin walked out of the tunnel and sat on the bench briefly looking on. He may have been looking at the top of the arena where that castle and picture of the Las Vegas strip is near the upper deck. Or maybe he was looking out to the ice where the words “Stanley Cup Final” were written.
In under 24 hours, Alex Ovechkin will embark on the biggest stage of his career. It’s a place where some critics didn’t think he nor the Capitals will be. Yet here they are. Ovechkin was asked at media day if he was thinking about something as he was looking on from the bench before taking the ice for practice.
“No. I just do it all the time,” Ovechkin answered.
Even as the excitement builds for the Stanley Cup Finals, he doesn’t want to get too excited or too emotional. He didn’t exert all of the energy in the practice session nor while fielding questions at a podium with reporters from around the hockey world. He wants to use the energy on Monday right when the ref drops the puck at center ice shortly after 8:00 on the east coast.
“Of course it’s exciting but I don’t want to get too excited, too energetic right now before games. I would rather keep my emotions, keep my energy on the ice and do my best over there,” said Ovechkin.
Ovechkin enters Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals with a career-high 12 goals, surpassing his 11 goal mark back in 2009. He leads the Capitals in goals this postseason and is second on the team in points with 22 (12 goals, 10 assists). He is just two points shy of Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“When the playoffs started I’ve enjoyed it (being in the spotlight). We’ve worked so hard all year,” said Ovechkin. “I don’t think anybody believed in us and anybody believed in Vegas and we’re in the Stanley Cup Final fighting for a Cup. I’m enjoying this moment. I think everybody’s enjoying it.”
Alex Ovechkin had jokes with the media as well. He jokingly said that he got a call from Vladimir Putin wishing him luck but he was only kidding. He also told the media that they’re going to be having just as much fun as the players and the fans.
“We’re gonna play hockey. You guys are gonna be on the beach watching the hockey games with the cocktails, come here and watch the hockey game and it’s gonna be fun for you guys,” Ovechkin added.
Ovechkin loves the big stage and on Monday night in a city known for a ton of shows, the biggest show of all takes place on the ice.
By Michael Marzzacco