In recent seasons, the Washington Capitals have been used to their offseason beginning in late April, early May and even June. However, the Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons in their 2023-24 campaign, which forced their summer to begin at the beginning of April.
While there was disappointment in the locker room about not having the opportunity to compete for another Stanley Cup, the Caps took advantage of the longer summer to recover from an injury riddled season.
Alex Ovechkin in particular made use of the extended offseason. The Capitals captain battled injuries down the stretch, which was odd for him considering how durable he’s been throughout his 19-year NHL career. He missed nine games last season.
“Training wise I did some things differently, but the most important thing was I have to recover my body from what I had last year,” Ovechkin said on the first day of training camp.
“If you can skate, you can do something you want to play, but sometimes it’s kind of like you can do certain things on the ice off the ice as well. So, try to do your best to come back. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.”
Possible a line early in the year.
— Jacob Cheris (@JCheris17) September 21, 2023
Ovechkin had 75 points (42 goals, 33 assists) in 73 games last year and had numerous milestones along the way. He became the third player in NHL history to score 800 goals and passed Gordie Howe for second-most goals all time. But that comes second fiddle to last season’s failure.
“I don’t think it sits well with him that we missed the playoffs,” president of hockey operations and general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He didn’t have fun down the stretch last year. He wants to win, he wants to compete, he wants to be at the highest level. He’s gonna do what he can do to help us get there.”
The 38-year-old Russian wants his team to get out to a faster start, especially now that he is healthy along with most of the core.
“Obviously, when you have lots of injuries, guys came from the injuries, you have almost four months to get ready. get your body ready for the season [and] for training camp,” Ovechkin said. “You have to be sharper just at the beginning of the year because those points we lost when the season started cost us. 20 games left and you try to catch the different guys, different teams who are ahead of you.”
Ovechkin and the Capitals kick off the season on Friday, Oct. 13 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena.
By Jacob Cheris