Alexander Ovechkin has been sent home early from the NHL Playoffs…again. I’m starting to worry.
As far as being a truly great player, Alexander Ovechkin isn’t there yet. I’m beginning to question if he’ll ever get there. Sure, Ovechkin is one of, it not the most talented player in the NHL. Despite his abilities and personal accolades, Ovechkin hasn’t accomplished a darn thing. His Washington Capitals have underachieved in the playoffs every year. In 2008 they fell in the first round to the Philadelphia Flyers. In 2009 the Capitals blew a 2-0 lead and were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in round two. This year, Ovechkin’s Capitals choked away a 3-1 first round lead to the Montreal Canadiens. What’s worse, the Capitals were the higher seed in every one of those series. Losing is one thing. Losing as the favorite in three consecutive postseasons raises a lot of questions.
When you’re the best player on a team, the blame falls on your shoulders. That’s the way sports work. Great players receive the praise after success and absorb the backlash after failure. The inconsistency of the Capitals’ offense in the first round is irrelevant, as is the subpar goaltending. All that matters is that Alex Ovechkin is out of the playoffs before May for the second time in three years. He hasn’t even tasted a Conference Final yet. For a player that is supposed to be a superstar, that’s not getting it done.
Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a trend. Add the embarrassing Olympic performance, and it’s clear Ovechkin hasn’t learned how to elevate his team(s) to greatness…something all great players must do. Ovechkin has the talent. That much is clear. There’s also no doubt he could be a legend like Steve Yzerman, Kobe Bryant, and Tom Brady. However, until he wins, he’ll be flirting with a legacy more similar to Eric Lindros’, Karl Malone’s, and Donovan McNabb’s. All great players, but all shared one common fate; zero championships.
Ovechkin is still young and time is certainly on his side. The early results just aren’t very encouraging. Sidney Crosby currently has one Stanley Cup and one Gold Medal to Ovechkin’s playoff collapses and embarrassing Vancouver performance. Fair or not, Ovechkin is already to the point of his career where his success each season will be judged solely on postseason results. He’s proven he can win the scoring titles, MVP’s and every other personal accolade. What we need from him are victories as spring turns to summer. Oveckin will now have to wait another year to prove he’s more than a regular season superstar. I’ll certainly be waiting.
(Now, if you’re looking for someone else to blame for Washington’s failure, I would be willing to pass some blame on to the Capitals’ fans. After blowing a 3-1 lead and being eliminated by an eighth seed, the Washington fans celebrated their team as they skated around the ice with sticks raised high. Excuse me? Your team just bowed out of the playoffs early for the third straight year to a team that scored more than 100 fewer goals than them. Booing would be the appropriate response. Gosh, if that happened in Philadelphia, the Flyers would know better than to hang around after the customary handshake line. Boos would be the least of their worries. Beer, trash, and maybe some batteries would probably be showered upon the underachieving Flyers. It’s not the fans fault that Ovechkin hasn’t led his team beyond the second round, but celebrating and accepting the team’s failure won’t increase the urgency or motivate the organization to get it together. Remember, being a fan means playing the tough love card from time to time. I know it’s hard but it’s necessary and also part of the job. If you can’t handle it, either stop being a fan or move to Philadelphia for any sports season and you’ll catch on quickly. We’ve mastered the tough love role.)