(Nick Wass/Associated Press)


Whether he’s scoring a hat trick or taking multiple penalties that result in a pair of goals for the opposition, Alex Ovechkin’s performances will always be under intense scrutiny. It comes with the job description when he’s the star winger the Washington Capitals chose to build their franchise around nine years ago.

Coach Adam Oates understands that, but the first-year bench boss acknowledged that he’s not too keen on some of the harsh criticism Ovechkin has received in recent weeks from NBC analysts Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire.

“I don’t like it when ex-players talk about players. I think your job is to add color,” Oates said. “I don’t want to be too concerned about it. My job is with Alex and, really, he should focus on the way I feel about him, but it is part of the game when you’re one of the focal points of the league. That’s a fact.”

Oates believes it can be difficult for a player to filter out the external opinions from the internal ones within the team, and it’s why he focuses on maintaining an open line of communication with every player, Ovechkin included.

“That’s why we constantly try and talk about playing better,” Oates said, “Try and minimize those mistakes because everybody tries to take a big man down.”

Ovechkin steadily improved in his execution on the right wing and in creating dangerous scoring chances during the month of February, culminating with a four-point outing that included a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 23.

But in the seven games since, he has one goal, five assists and his overall performance has been more uneven. Against the Rangers on Sunday, he was directly involved in plays that resulted in three goals against.

But Oates believes there’s more to see in Ovechkin’s recent outings.

“Pretty good, pretty good but he has moments, like all of us. We had a little talk this morning,” Oates said. “He’s got so much pressure on him, that he makes a mistake and the world sees it but they don’t see necessarily the 10 hits, they don’t see necessarily the 14 shots that he takes. They focus on the mistakes and that goes with the territory. “

(Dan Steinberg has the latest Ovechkin criticism, from Milbury and Ray Ferraro, over at the D.C. Sports Bog.)