The Washington Capitals got off to one of the worst starts in recent years this season, as a talented offense led by Alex Ovechkin had trouble getting off the ground. Ovechkin may have nine goals and 20 assists this season, but with four of those goals and seven of those points coming in two games, those numbers aren’t nearly impressive enough for a player of his caliber.
During the second intermission of an eventual 4-1 Capitals loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 28, NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury had some harsh criticisms of the Russian star’s performance. Milbury took a lot of heat for his comment at the time, but had clear video evidence to back up his points, and Ovechkin’s performance in Sunday’s loss to the New York Rangers seemed to reinforce his case. The main criticism against Ovechkin is that he doesn’t work very hard outside of the defensive zone. A captain is expected to play hard at both ends of the ice, every minute of every shift. That’s never been Ovechkin’s style, and he was directly responsible for three of the Rangers’ goals on Sunday.
Two goals were scored due to Ovechkin taking penalties, and a third came as Derek Stepan avoided Ovechkin’s check in the neutral zone and skated in with a great chance to beat Capitals’ netminder Braden Holtby.
At this point, even taking the “C” off Ovehckin’s chest might not change the way he plays, but it would send a message to the team. First-year head coach Adam Oates is facing a ton of pressure to reach the playoffs, and doesn’t have an easy decision to make given his star player’s performance.