Capitals, Ovechkin Not Concerned by Slow Start

alex ovechkin - washington capitals
Alex Ovechkin celebrates a goal by teammate Brooks Laich on Thursday. The Capitals, who had not lost in Phoenix since Oct. 31, 2001, have now lost three straight. (AP) (Ross D. Franklin - AP)

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 25, 2008

DALLAS, Oct. 24 -- Seven games into the season, neither the Washington Capitals nor star winger Alex Ovechkin is off to the type of start fans had envisioned.

After falling in Phoenix, 2-1, Thursday night, the Capitals' losing streak reached three games (0-2-1) and Ovechkin, a year removed from notching a league-leading 65 goals and 112 points, didn't record a point and remains off to the slowest start of his four-year NHL career.

But if Ovechkin is panicking, it didn't show after an upbeat team meeting during which Coach Bruce Boudreau sought to reassure Ovechkin and his teammates.

The Capitals (3-3-1) will aim to avoid their first four-game losing streak since November on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars (3-4-1).

"It's just a matter of time," said Ovechkin, who had four goals after seven games in each of the past two seasons. "It's nothing special happening. It's just the beginning of the year."

There are many theories regarding Ovechkin's scoring slump. Among them:

· The lack of continuity on the Capitals' top line. Second-year center Nicklas Backstrom has yet to find his game and was briefly replaced, while right wing Viktor Kozlov has missed four games with a knee injury, disrupting the chemistry the trio forged last season.

· Teams are more focused on stopping Ovechkin. While that may be hard to imagine since he was often shadowed in the past, Boudreau said Ovechkin is attracting even more attention this season.

· When Ovechkin has fallen into ruts in the past, his aim has appeared off, almost as if he's trying to be too fine with the placement of his powerful shot. This season, he's been credited with 37 shots on goal. But he's also had 18 shots blocked and has missed the net on another 17 attempts.

"I don't know," Ovechkin said when asked about his multiple misfires. "Something strange is happening. You see preseason games, I shoot the puck and the puck goes in. Right now, they're just not going in."

This isn't Ovechkin's first slump, and it won't be his last. The important thing, Ovechkin said, is that he resists the urge to alter the approach that's helped him score 163 goals in his first three seasons.

"I play the same way I play last year, but I'm not scoring or making some points," he said. "I have still hits. I have still lots of shots. You remember last year, I didn't score for [seven games]. Then I shoot the puck from blueline and puck goes in and everything goes well. I just need one goal. I need to keep shooting."

Boudreau also isn't overly concerned. Not yet, anyway.

"He'll fight through it," Boudreau said. "He will have a great year. It happened in March last year, when he went [seven games] without a goal. He ended up with 65."


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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