Instead of adding fuel to a fire, Alex Ovechkin laughingly tried to put one out.
A day after Capitals head coach Barry Trotz compared the Washington winger to Rangers legend Mark Messier, Ovechkin laughed it off.
“I’m Russian, not Canadian,” the three-time MVP said.
Ovechkin is six Stanley Cups shy of Messier and hasn’t made any famous guarantees quite yet. But with a goal and the game-winning assist on Joel Ward’s last second score, he was the best player on the ice in Game 1. While he has long been known as perhaps the best goal scorer on the planet, the knock on Ovechkin has long been his inability to be a team player. Though he has earned plenty of individual awards over his career, his Capitals have never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
However, in his first year as the Capitals coach, Trotz has found that the perception of Ovechkin is off target.
“It’s easy to pick on great players or try to pick them apart. That’s just part of society now. We try to find fault in everything,” Trotz said. “As I said yesterday, he’s that unique talent, that strength and skill and power and physicality that’s pretty rare. Sometimes we try to pick that apart and look for a fault. But he’s been one of the most consistent goal scorers in the National Hockey League.”
Ovechkin showed he wasn’t a one-dimensional player in the first round against the Islanders, where he scored just two goals but doled out 31 hits in the physical seven-game series. He flipped the script in Game 1 against the Rangers, notching two points without registering a hit.
“He’s always been about the team, about winning. When you see a guy score goals the way he does, he’s so good one-on-one, you sometimes don’t see the stuff behind the scenes. Now that he’s doing a lot of stuff in the (defensive) zone, the neutral zone he’s just getting a little more focused. People are realizing he can play a good all around game,” Karl Alzner said. “We were joking the other day that he should have been nominated for the Selke.”
“He’s just setting a good example,” Alzner continued. “He’s doing things at both ends of the ice and when he sets the tone, comes back with backchecks and big hits. A lot of the big stars in the league don’t play the way he does with his physicality.”
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