The Beginning of the End?
Three Improvements Alex Ovechkin Must Accomplishment 2017
GM Brian MacLellan was unusually blunt when asked to assess Alex Ovechkin’s 2016-17 campaign. The three-time league MVP “had a down year’ and he needs to improve his on-ice approach and off-ice training if he wanted to maintain Ovechkin’s status among the NHL’s elite.
It was indeed a forgettable season for Ovechkin. In addition to being relegated to the third line as his Caps were eliminated by Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in the season around….
Ovechkin scored 33 goals tied for 13th in the league, and it marked his lowest output in a non-lockout season since 2010-11. While kissing his streak of Hockey Richard Trophies at four, goodbye. Ovechkin’s 16 even-strength goals were the fewest of his career, and one of the game’s most prolific shooters finished with 313 shots. The lowest total in a non-lockout year since 2011-12, along with failing to record a shot on net in three games during February.
As the 2017-18 seasons nears, the Elephant in the room for the Caps is this: What can they expect from the captain and highest paid player? Ovechkin has yet to show any potential of returning to the 40-goal plateau, and if he wants to, he must address a couple of key areas.
Find a way to generate more offense 5 on 5 and use the off-season to boost his speed. The game is getting faster, and he’s going to have to train differently and Ovechkin will have to make adjustments to stay in the game. This is what the elite players do and this season will determine his elite status.
A slimmer looking Ovechkin returned to the team’s facility on August 29th, weeks earlier than usual. Although he did not immediately speak to reporters, teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov confirmed what others suspected.
The 6’3” power forward had indeed checked in lighter than the 239 pounds the Capitals listed him last winter. Whether shedding a few pounds translates to more goals and assists remains to be seen. But it probably won’t hurt.
Another way Ovechkin can become more efficient is to make better use of his teammates, something he started to do halfway through last season. In fact, as time and space became increasingly difficult to find, he parlayed his underrated passing skills into 36 assists. His highest total in six seasons.
That. Needs. To. Continue.
Ovechkin also must get to the net more often. He made a concerted effort to crash the crease in search of tip-in opportunities and rebounds in the opening weeks of last season. While even working on redirecting point shots in practice a few occasions. Although his efforts yielded some early returns, he didn’t do it consistently enough.
That. Must. Change.
As the captain prepares for his 13th NHL campaign, he’s fighting Father Time and facing the challenge of making adjustments to his game. Can he overcome the former while embracing the latter?
The Capitals’ trajectory for this season and beyond DEPENDS. ON. IT
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