The journey was long and arduous but Alex Ovechkin finally climbed the mountain and reached the summit after winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career. No longer does Ovechkin have to hear if he can win the big one. He answered that question with a resounding yes over the past two months. Was it the decreased expectations for a younger team that still managed to win the division? Perhaps that was the reason that Ovechkin and the Capitals thrived in the postseason this year unlike in years past. However, make no doubt, it was the much maligned leader of the Capitals who proved he is indeed in the conversation of greatest players of all time.
This whole playoff run was about Ovechkin and him getting the monkey off of his back; it was about him having his Steve Young moment with the various cuts to him on the bench living and dying with each moment. There is no doubt that Ovechkin put together the finest performance of his career in this postseason. Ovechkin was the straw who stirred the drink for the Capitals in the playoffs. There were many big moments which were not there in the past and all of them had Ovechkin in the middle.
In game 6 against Columbus in the Metropolitan Division semifinal, Ovechkin scored 2 goals in the series clincher both scored in the second period which put Washington ahead for good. Against Columbus, Ovechkin destroyed them with 5 goals and 3 assists in the series. It continued against Pittsburgh where Ovechkin had 3 goals and 4 assists. It was Ovechkin who drew in 3 defenders before passing to an open Jakub Vrana right in front of the net in game 5. If that wasn’t enough who could forget his famous push pass forward up the ice to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the next game which secured the series against their nemesis Pittsburgh in Game 6?
In the conference final, Ovechkin had 4 goals and 3 assists, none bigger than his goal to open the scoring in Game 7 in Tampa Bay, a minute into the game that would be the game winner. Ovechkin factored in heavily into three of the four wins in that series scoring 3 goals and 2 assists in those wins and finishing with 4 goals and 3 assists. In the Stanley Cup Final, Ovechkin scored huge goals in Games 2 and 3 including the scrum around the net where he scored a greasy backhander while falling to the ice. His stellar performance continued in the Cup clincher in Game 5 with a power play goal in the second period. In the Stanley Cup Final, Ovechkin recorded 3 goals and 2 assists.
Ovechkin finished the playoffs with 15 goals and 12 assists finishing second in the playoffs with 27 points in 24 games only trailing Kuznetsov who had 32 points in the same amount of games. Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe for his efforts in leading the league in goals in the postseason and in leading the Capitals. Ovechkin was a huge reason for winning the Stanley Cup as he was involved in some way in all of the big moments throughout the playoffs.
Now Ovechkin will be remembered as one of the greats as he should be and was before this run. Ovechkin has 607 goals in the regular season in 1003 games. He is known as the greatest goal scorer of this generation and someone who has a chance to eclipse Wayne Gretzky’s goals record of 894. However, if he went his entire career without winning the Cup, he would have been remembered as Dan Marino, Karl Malone, John Stockton and others. When you mention those names, the argument is, “he was a great player…but he didn’t win a ring”. No longer is there a but associated with Ovechkin when his name is brought up. He can now take his place among the greats with no underlying theme.
Ovechkin recorded at least a point in 19 of 24 games this playoffs. In the games that Ovechkin did not record a point, Washington went 2-3 compared to 14-5 when he recorded a point. Ovechkin had 8 multi point games which Washington went 6-2. Ovechkin was dynamic and consistent at the same time which is what helps win Stanley Cups. Ovechkin had a 6 game point streak to end the playoffs and recorded a point in 8 of his last 9 games. Ovechkin didn’t necessarily perform any better than he has in the past in the postseason but he showed up in every big moment. Against Pittsburgh he delivered the staggering blow in game 5 and then helped with the knockout blow in Game 6. It was his goal in Game 7 of the conference final that started things for Washington. And his goal in Game 3 helped turn the tide in Washington’s favor and got things rocking in Washington.
Ovechkin was brilliant this year and it continued in the playoffs where he elevated his game and was the best player. He didn’t need to have the most points but he stepped up every time that there was a moment that Washington needed Ovechkin was in the middle of it. And in it all, it’s the journey that is worth it if you make it to the top. Nobody cares about the past 43 years for Washington who won their first Stanley Cup in their 44 year history. All of the pain against Pittsburgh and others, it just made the journey sweeter for Ovechkin and Washington. At long last, Ovechkin has hoisted the Stanley Cup and after his stellar performance in the playoffs was a huge reason why. Ovechkin has finally reached the top of the mountain and can finally call himself, a champion.