There’s still time for Alex Ovechkin to lead the Capitals to a title, but even if he never lifts the Cup he will remain one of the best NHL players of all-time.
Imagine playing on a hockey team that included the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Marcel Dionne, Mike Gartner, Phil Housley, Harry Howell, Dale Hunter, Mats Sundin, Jarome Iginla, Jeremy Roenick, Adam Oates, Patrick Marleau and Curtis Joseph.
Now picture them sitting around the dressing room talking about their favorite Stanley Cup memories. It wouldn’t be a long chit chat since none of those stars ever won the Cup.
You can’t have a conversation with anyone about Dionne without the fact he never won the Stanley Cup coming up. Cripes, the guy scored 731 goals and 1,771 points in his Hall-of-Fame-18-year career, but played in just 49 post-season games. His teams failed to make the playoffs 11 times.
You don’t need to have won the Stanley Cup to have enjoyed an otherwise glorious and successful career, but it sure helps.
All of which brings us to Alex Ovechkin. Again.
Watching Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals dismantle the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 7-1 on Wednesday, one couldn’t help but wonder — is this the year? Is this finally the season that Ovechkin gets his name carved into the Cup?
Ovechkin scored a rather meaningless sixth goal of the game for the Capitals in the one-sided victory, but was a force to be reckoned with leading all Washington forwards with 18:38 in ice time (6:02 on the power play), three shots on goal and four hits. It’s a little early in the season to call this a statement game, but if the Capitals go deep into the playoffs this season, it should be noted they served notice of great things to come on Nov. 16.
That said, this has not been a great start to the year for the 31-year-old Ovechkin, who had eight goals and 12 points in the first 16 games. He was minus-3.
On the other hand, the Capitals were tied for fourth overall in the NHL, with the Penguins, and with each passing day it becomes more and more obvious that while Ovechkin remains the face of the organization, he doesn’t have to do it all on his own. History suggests he never could.
Ovechkin has participated in the Stanley Cup playoffs in seven of his first 13 seasons, but has never made it out of the second round. Last season, despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 120 points (11 more than second place Dallas Stars), the Capitals were ousted in the second round in six games by the Penguins. Ovechkin played decently, scoring five goals and 12 points in 12 playoff games, but once again was left unfulfilled.
That Stanley Cup win for the Penguins, in addition to helping Canada win the World Cup, put to rest once and for all the debate about who’s better between Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, in Crosby’s favor. Ovechkin can win all the Rocket Richard trophies he wants – he has six, including the past four – but Crosby’s two Cups, two Olympic gold medals, and World Cup trump them any day of the week.
That does not mean Ovechkin is not still a superstar. He is and regardless of what happens as his career unfolds, he will remain one of the best NHL players of all-time.
So as the 2016-17 season closes out the first quarter it looks once again like the Capitals have as good a shot at winning the Cup as any of the other leading contenders. The Capitals are solid in goal with Braden Holtby, they have a very good defense and plenty of top-end forwards including Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie. Also, the Capitals have one of the best coaches in the game in Barry Trotz.
Ovechkin is just getting warmed up. Thanks to his strong supporting cast, he has been allowed to find his way without compromising Washington’s chances for wins. Despite having a four-game goal streak earlier this season, Ovechkin has yet to have a multi-goal effort. It will surely come.
Just as surely as the Capitals will make the playoffs and once again the eyes of the hockey world will be on No. 8.
Dionne was an amazing hockey player and I have never thought any less of him because he never played on a Stanley Cup championship team. I am quite certain I’d feel the same about Ovechkin if he never wins the Cup.
I just hope I never have to find out.