At times over roughly the last week, Alex Ovechkin has looked exactly like the dominant, energetic force that his reputation as a player is built on. Against the Rangers on Monday night, he created scoring chances off rushes, crashed the net (even sparking a bit of a shoving match with Martin Biron) and had the electrifying presence that, well, hasn't always been out on the ice this season.
Only time will tell if this is the sign of a larger breakout by the Capitals' star left wing, as we've seen slumps end at various points throughout the year, but there may be a different feel to Ovechkin's play in recent games. There's a little more movement, a little more oomph, a little more of the qualities that have made Ovechkin fun to watch during his career.
"To me his speed has increased recently," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "His puck handling has increased, he's gotten a little bit better. Again [Monday] he had, I thought, two really good chances to score. Sometimes you get them, some years they're all going in and some years they're not going in. He's fighting for every goal he can get this year."
Asked to explain what he meant by Ovechkin's speed increasing, Boudreau brought up some of the main qualities evident on the ice when Ovechkin is at his best.
"He looks quicker. He was making moves while he was skating, where as before he'd get stiff-legged and would try to make moves around guys by not moving his legs," Boudreau said. "You saw in the second period he got a puck at the blue line and he was going full speed, made one move, took a great shot and I think he missed the net with it but it was a great opportunity. That's what you're used to seeing when you're talking about Alex."
For his part, after the game, Ovechkin joked when asked if he was his old self.
"What, am old Ovie?" Ovechkin asked back. "You guys said I'm back and like old Ovie. I feel like normal."
He might not have scored against the Rangers, but Ovechkin was a threat offensively more often than not when he was on the ice Monday. He rattled off six shots, two hits and three takeaways and while points would have perhaps helped Washington avoid a 2-1 loss in the shootout, it might be more important to see Ovechkin being a consistent presence in games.