One day after causing a small stir at Kettler Capitals Iceplex when he left practice early, Alex Ovechkin returned to the ice Wednesday, stayed for the entire session and afterward confirmed that he's ready to go.
"Yeah," he said when asked if he's 100 percent before explaining his early departure Tuesday, "I just want to be in good shape. I don't want to give my emotion in practice. I just want to be calm and concentrate."
After all, he's the captain of the NHL's top-seeded team. And he's about to face one of the teams he loves to torch. In 20 career games against the Habs, in fact, the two-time MVP has 11 goals and 13 assists. Not to mention some of his best highlights, including a four-goal performance in 2008 where he scored the overtime winner after suffering a broken nose and split lip. Then, there was this highlight-reel tally on Carey Price in February 2009:
Ovechkin answered questions for about seven minutes in a media-choked dressing room this morning and touched on a number of subjects. Here's a little more of what he had to say:
About playing in Montreal: "It's a great history team and lots of attention and everybody just watching those kinds of games so you want to show up. You don't want to just skate and play, you want to show your best stuff."
Asked whether his name needs to be on Cup in order for him to considered one of the greatest ever: "I think everybody who plays hockey, especially in the playoffs, wants to win [the Stanley Cup]. I want to win. I don't want to prove anything in particular, I just want to win. if I don't play well and the team win, I don't care what people say because I just want to win."
Ovechkin put the brakes on the Cup talk moments later, though, when he was asked what it would mean to be the first Russian captain to be handed the Cup by Gary Bettman.
"Let's talk about when we move forward, not right now," he said. "We don't do nothing yet. we just start playing the playoffs and you're talking about the Stanley Cup."
Ovechkin also said he believes early exits the past two springs have taught the young Caps' core some valuable lessons.
"I think we have good experience and we can stay more calm and don't show our emotion and energy right away," he said. "The last couple of years in the playoffs we didn't have a lot of emotion in the games because we gave it to you guys and we gave it in practice. We have to just stay calm and concentrate on the game."
But experience isn't all that's going to help the Caps this time around, Ovechkin added. So will the fact that the team has a clean bill of health, unlike last spring.
"Last year when we just started the playoff we were not healthy," he said. "[Mike Green], I had a [wrist] problem, Sasha had a problem and different guys played with broken legs and bad groins. Right now we're all healthy and I think this is going to help us a lot."
"The last month and a half," he continued, "we don't play our hardest game. We don't check, make some hits or block the shots because we know the biggest game is coming soon. We just try to be in shape and be ready for the playoffs."