For all that Alex Ovechkin managed to do during the regular season, from leading the Capitals to the postseason by averaging a goal a game in the final 23 contests to being named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, none of it is will be how his season is remembered.
No, Ovechkin’s season will be remembered for how he recorded only one goal and an assist in seven games as Washington was eliminated by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“Of course when you lose the game and when you lose the series everybody try [to] find the guy who didn’t do something out there,” Ovechkin said Tuesday in his final interview with local reporters this season. “But as a captain and as a player, I can see everybody do exactly what they have to do. Of course was mistake by me, by everybody, but that’s why we have five guys out there to cover mistakes. One guy can’t win the championship. Only like team success.”
But there’s no single player whose success contributes directly to the rise and fall of the Capitals like Ovechkin’s.
In the regular season and playoffs combined, Washington is 20-3-2 this year when Ovechkin records a goal and 10-19-1 when he does not. He accounted for 29.1 percent of the Capitals’ regular season goals this year and they earned a 3-1 win against New York in Game 1, the only contest Ovechkin scored in during the series.
“In the playoffs it doesn’t matter if you score or not. You have to win. Team success is most important thing out there,” Ovechkin said. “In seven games I have two points and we still lose. What’s the reason? I didn’t score and we lose. I score we lose. It’s kind of position where everybody have to make a difference.”
While Ovechkin’s point that it takes more than one player to win a championship is valid, he believes it was ultimately only one man who eliminated Washington from the postseason – Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who turned away 214 of the 226 shots he faced.
Ovechkin said multiple times on Tuesday that it was Lundqvist who stopped the Capitals cold, not necessarily the smothering defensive play of the Rangers or the lack of adjustments made by himself or his teammates.
“You can see one guy beat us. Of course they have good team, great players, great defensive team, but the goalie out there was unbelievable. That’s why he’s best in league,” said Ovechkin, who was later asked if it was really that simple to identify the root cause of the Capitals’ first-round exit. “In my mind it was Lundqvist. They have great team, no doubt about it, but Lundqvist was unbelievable. Just unbelievable.”
Perhaps it will be Lundqvist’s performance that stands as the ultimate reflection of this series rather than the disappearance of Washington’s greatest offensive talent. After all, he did help his team to victory, and the same can’t be said for Ovechkin.
“Winning give you everything. Nobody remember losers,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody remember only winners.”