By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6, 2010; D10
Alex Ovechkin's arrival in Washington four seasons ago put an indelible stamp on the Capitals. Tuesday, the team returned the favor by putting the captain's 'C' on the winger's jersey.
Ovechkin, the face of the franchise, two-time league MVP and driving force behind hockey's resurgence in the nation's capital, was named the 14th captain in Capitals history before Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center.
"If I need to say something, I will say something," Ovechkin said. "But I will show what I can do on the ice. It's a big honor for me. I'm going to do my best, but I don't want to concentrate on having a 'C' on my heart. I'm just going to play the same."
Ovechkin, who is signed through the 2020-21 season, succeeds Chris Clark, who was traded to Columbus on Dec. 28. Clark had served 3 1/2 seasons as captain.
"It will be totally different," Coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked to compare Clark's leadership style to Ovechkin's. "Clark was an organizer. His wife took care of the [players'] wives. If there was a problem, Clark took care of the room of everything else."
"Ovie," Boudreau added with emphasis, "is taking care of the ice. That's what Ovie is going to do."
Ovechkin, 24, becomes the third-youngest captain in the NHL behind the Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, 21, and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby, 22, and the first European-born captain in Capitals' history.
He's also the sixth Russian native to captain an NHL team and one of two currently with the 'C,' joining his good friend Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Capitals did not announce the news with a lot of fanfare. Instead, they allowed fans to find out for themselves. Ovechkin, as always, emerged from the home dressing room second in line behind the goalie for warmups wearing a jersey with the captain's 'C' stitched over on his left shoulder, ending eight days of speculation.
Applause slowly spread through the seats as spectators realized Ovechkin's new status. When his named was announced during the starting lineups, he was welcomed with a much heartier cheer.
After Clark was dealt, Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee said the team planned to take its time settling on a new captain. Boudreau said he wanted to make the right pick for his first NHL captain; McPhee said he wanted to show the proper respect for Clark's years of service.
In recent days, Boudreau discussed options for the captaincy with McPhee and the team's veteran leaders. The decision, as it turned out, wasn't as difficult as Boudreau anticipated.
"I had talked to a lot of [players] the last couple of days and they said Alex is the only choice," Boudreau said. "He's our leader, he's our guy. What shows he was ready was when I talked to him two or three days ago, he said he would accept the responsibility but 'only if my teammates want it.' He was already thinking about the team instead of himself, which is what captains do."
Ovechkin added: "It means a lot. It shows they trust me and they want me to be the captain, I said right away, 'Bruce, if you want me to be captain, ask [other] guys if they want me to be captain.' "
On Monday, Boudreau informed Ovechkin of his decision. The coach notified the rest of the players after Tuesday's morning skate. The players stood and applauded when the announcement was made.
Ovechkin was offered the captaincy three years ago, but declined because he felt his command of English was not good enough. But the Moscow native has worked hard to improve his language skills and communication with teammates and on-ice officials, so that's no longer an issue.
"It was my second year," Ovechkin said. "I said no right away. My English was not good. Right now, it's getting better."
Then he added with a laugh, "But it's not good enough."