Capitals’ Game 7 is Alex Ovechkin’s Chance to Shine

It’s no secret that the Washington Capitals are usually terrible in home-ice Game 7 showdowns. For whatever reason, their superstar Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the team fail to show up for such occasions. Ovechkin has a great chance to curb that trend tonight at the Verizon Center against the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals.

The “Great 8” was the NHL’s leading goal-scorer in the regular season for the fifth time in his illustrious career. He also improved dramatically in the plus/minus category this season over last, and he actually gets along with his coach – but who doesn’t get along with Barry Trotz? However, the postseason has always been a little trickier for Ovechkin.

Is it finally Alex Ovechkin’s postseason to shine? (Anthony S. Fiore/Inside Hockey)

In his NHL career, Ovechkin has played 760 games, recorded 475 goals and 420 assists for 895 points. That’s just over a point per game in his regular season stats. It’s a different story during the playoffs.

Ovie’s 14 postseason games in the 2011-12 season are a good example of the superstar’s playoff malaise. Ovechkin racked up nine points from those 14 games and his plus/minus was minus-2. In 2012-13, Ovechkin amassed only two points from his seven playoff games. If the past two playoff campaigns are indicators, then tonight’s game might turn ugly.

The team has changed and improved since 2013 though, so is this the year that Ovechkin finally shakes off his mediocre playoff past and lives up to the hype and expectation that accompanies the world’s best hockey player? He thinks so.

“This is a different team compared to the last couple years,” told CSN Washington. “A mature team, an experienced team … It’s a lot different.”

He’s referring to the fact that the Capitals currently have a better defense, a stronger forward pool of players, a more experienced coach and an on-fire goalie in Braden Holtby. But, Ovechkin is the team talisman. When he scores, when he plays well and when he’s impassioned – the whole team benefits. One can feel the tension in the Verizon Center if the fans get a whiff of something not quite clicking with Ovechkin.

Ovechkin needs to mix things up on the power play in Game 7. His old standby move of whacking in goals from the left was thwarted in the first six games. The New York Islanders have his number. It’s time to fake-out; it’s time to razzle-dazzle; it’s time to re-invent oneself for a crucial Game 7 for the Capitals.

Let’s face it, most of the headlines Tuesday morning will include Ovechkin’s name – regardless of the game’s outcome. In 2013, after their Game 7 thrashing at the hands of the New York Rangers in the first round, I was on record as saying that particular Capitals team was not worthy of progressing to the second round. However, the team that takes the ice tonight is more than capable of making it to the next round and beyond.

The fans will be ‘rocking the red’ tonight and Ovechkin must deliver the goods, or his legacy will receive another negative notch.

Also by Glynn: Braden Holtby is Why the Capitals Can Lift the Stanley Cup