ANAHEIM — California hasn’t been kind to the Washington Capitals this week, and it’s been particularly cruel to captain Alex Ovechkin. On Sunday, he launched four shots at goaltender Jonathan Bernier, but for a 10th straight game, Ovechkin didn’t score as the Capitals fell to the Ducks, 5-2.
That marks a career-long drought for Ovechkin, and the Capitals’ struggles — a season-worst four-game losing streak — have highlighted his own. It’s been 18 games since he’s scored an even-strength goal, and he has just two points in past nine games. His recent play has improved, but the score sheet has still eluded him.
“A little bit frustrating because the puck don’t go in,” Ovechkin said. “You just maybe wait something happen going to be, a miracle or something. You just have to work harder and fight through it.”
So how does Ovechkin, a veteran of 907 games and 1,022 points, manage this new feeling of being unable to score?
“You know, I’m not a rookie anymore,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t think about, ‘Do I have to score every game?’ Of course, I wanted to. If you look at the chances we don’t have, it’s all about me. The guys give me really good plays, and I just have to put it in. One goal and it’s turned around in a different way.”
In the past four games, Ovechkin has had 21 shots on goal, including a nine-shot showing against Dallas. But in most of those games, Washington’s stars, Ovechkin included, have been outplayed by their opponents’ top players. In San Jose, the scoring came from Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. In Los Angeles, Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter carried the Kings. And on Sunday night in Anaheim, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry starred.
This season has been an interesting one for Ovechkin, even before this slump. His ice time has been reduced by roughly two minutes per game from last season, and he’s averaging a career-low 3.70 shots per game this season. Accounting for the lessened playing time, his rate of shooting is down, too, both at even-strength and on the power play.
Through 68 games, he has 27 goals and 29 assists. A year ago, Ovechkin had 42 goals and 21 assists at the 68-game mark. This will be the first time since the 2011-12 campaign that he hasn’t reached the 50-goal plateau in a non-lockout-shortened season, and after winning four straight Rocket Richard trophies for leading the league in goals, he’s now seven off Sidney Crosby’s 34.
But Capitals Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t think it’ll take “a miracle” for Ovechkin to score again, pleased with his effort in the past several games.
“There will be a lot made of him not scoring lately, but he is skating and maybe playing better than he has in long stretches when he was scoring,” Trotz said. “He’s pretty dangerous. He’s skating. I know that he’s worked on that, and he’s getting chances. He’s dangerous and he’s being heavy and he’s hard to play against. It’ll come.”