“It’s very frustrating,” Ovechkin said after what became an unsightly 5-0 loss to the Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. “That’s the whole point. You’re here to win the games and try to win the Cup.”
Is that, now, a reasonable quest? What we have, by way of evidence: Monday’s team-wide clunker putting the bold and italics on Ovechkin’s own uneven performance. Only once in five previous years of playing in the postseason had Ovechkin gone consecutive games with neither a goal nor an assist. He closed 2013 with five such games, and the Capitals failed to score in either Game 6 or Game 7.
“You can take it for granted sometimes, but you kind of expect that he’s going to score every time he shoots the puck,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Playoffs is just a different animal.”
That is a lesson Capitals fans and their children know by now, and Ovechkin is just the latest star to bear the burden of association with those failures. The two — the franchise and the focal point — have stood in lockstep for years, dating from their first playoff appearance together in 2008, when there seemed to be only promise and potential ahead. But Monday, they joined each other in another flame-out that ended another season. Ovechkin’s Capitals — and they are his Capitals, because he has both the “C” for “contract” and the “C” for “captain” — have now won three playoff series and lost six, and have never advanced past the second round.
Even Ovechkin said Monday reminded him of another data point on what is now a chart of indignities — the 6-2 Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh in 2009 on this same Verizon Center ice.
“We win one game, and the series would be over,” Ovechkin said, simultaneously thinking back four years and four hours. “But we don’t win one game. We get the lead 2-0, and we should take one game up there. We didn’t take it, and they bounced back, and get the lead and win the series.”
Vacant disappointment crossed his face. These are the only playoff memories Ovechkin has, and they fit with the blown three-games-to-one lead against Montreal in 2010, the inexplicable second-round sweep against Tampa Bay the following year. The more the Capitals try to distance themselves from their organization’s shaky postseason past, the more they seem to add chapters to it.