Screen cap: @Capitals
The Washington Capitals officially wrapped up their 2021-22 season on Sunday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, and conducted their annual exit interviews with the press.
After another first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (their fourth since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018), the Capitals will look to add more youth to their lineup next season; captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored 50 goals and recorded 90 Points in his age-36 season, is currently the Capitals’ oldest player.
“Yeah, I think we can see how the young guys step up this year, through all the injuries, I think it’s good for us, McJesus [Connor McMichael], Axe [Axel Jonsson-Fjallby], they’re growing up and they’ll help for us next year.”
The team’s breakdown day revealed the ongoing challenges caused by a lingering hip injury that Center Nicklas Backstrom (Ovechkin’s longtime running mate) battled throughout the season and playoffs, after missing the start of the regular season while recovering. The season saw Backstrom reach 1,000 career Points, just the second player behind Ovechkin to accomplish the feat in franchise history.
“He’s a warrior, he’s a tough man. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be better next year, obviously everybody knows what he means to the team, for the organization, for us he’s a leader, and how I said, I hope he’s going to get better.”
Near the conclusion of the regular season, Ovechkin sustained an injury to his shoulder that resulted in him missing the final three games, before playing in the team’s first round playoff series against the Florida Panthers.
“It’s not a secret that I hit the board, hit my shoulder, but again, in playoffs it’s matter. If it hurts, you have some injections to do, magic pill, so yeah. If it was Game 1, I was ready to play. Obviously, how I said, we did some things to help it out, and I was fine.”
Ovechkin’s ninth 50-goal season marked one of his most impressive regular season performances of his 16-year career, and marked his first 90-point season since 2009-10. Becoming the NHL’s third, all-time Goal Scorer, the Capitals’ captain’s chase for the NHL goal-scoring record is going to become more into focus as next season begins.
“We’ll see. Every year, games change. Every year, you have to be physically ready, mentally ready. How I said, if you take previous years, you don’t know what to expect from the season, because of the Covid, and all the stuff, but I think right now it’s how to be prepared for a year. Right now, it’s time to get a rest, time to see family, and go back home, and take a rest.”
While the season on Ovechkin physically was challenging, Ovechkin experienced a tremendous amount of adversity off the ice as well, last seeing his children Sergei and Ilya, at the beginning of 2022, and wife Nastya just once since then.
“It was tough, obviously I saw my wife one week, and I haven’t seen my kids since they left. But it’s a good thing we have technology, you can see them, talk to them. Can’t imagine if we back ’90s, you have to letter, write the message, it’d be much harder. But right now we can talk, see each other, they know who I am [laughing].”
While the Caps exorcised the proverbial demons of playoff heartbreak in the summer of 2018 by winning their first Stanley Cup, the four postseason exits since have stung the team and its captain in much the same way.
“Every year, you know, you fight for the playoffs, then you fight for a Cup. We’re not getting younger, it’s hard, it’s hard time right now, but nothing you can do right now. All you can do is just get better for next year, and try to win next year.”
By Michael Fleetwood