NHL Washington Capitals

Will Alexander Ovechkin Be the Scapegoat if Washington Capitals Miss Playoffs?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals got destroyed 5-0 by the Dallas Stars in their latest game of the season’s home stretch. The loss was the team’s fourth in a row, fifth in their last six games. At 81 points, the Capitals are in danger of missing the postseason.

And it’s all Alexander Ovechkin’s fault. Because it’s always Alexander Ovechkin’s fault.

At least this is the vibe being felt around the D.C. area, as it typically is when Washington encounters significant struggles. But, is this criticism of the Capitals captain legitimate?

One look at Ovechkin’s stats this season seems to provide crucial evidence for both sides of the argument. He leads the NHL with 48 goals scored this year. Ironically, though, his alarmingly bad -36 plus/minus rating is the lowest in the entire league. So, he’s giving his team a great deal of scoring, while providing nightly opposition the same thing. He’s an offensive powerhouse who doesn’t appear interested in playing a lick of defense.

But this has always been the case with Ovechkin. The critique of the Russian superstar has always been that he’s more interested in scoring goals than trying to stop the opponent from doing the same. Unless there’s a momentous change in his game, pigs will fly before he wins the Selke Trophy for the league’s best defensive forward.

Is this enough to pin an entire team’s collapse on Ovechkin’s shoulders?

It certainly plays a big hand in Washington’s troubles, but it’s not enough to blame it entirely on him. First of all, the Capitals aren’t exactly a defensively sound team to begin with. For example, only nine players on the entire team have a positive plus/minus rating. In net, the team has started four different goalies this season – with Braden Holtby getting the most playing time – and the stats have been good, but not game-changing. Offensively, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have 70+ points, but the next best player – Joel Ward – has 43. The next closest Capital to Ovechkin’s 48 goals is Troy Brouwer with 23. So the team doesn’t have a great deal of offensive balance either.

Bottom line: Ovechkin could very well be a big reason why the team misses out on the postseason, but he’s hardly the only one. However, since he’s the team’s superstar and captain, he’s still more than likely going to get the brunt of the blame. It’ll happen whether he deserves it or not, and it’ll happen if they fall short of the postseason or flame out in the middle of it. And unless Ovechkin becomes an elite two-way forward, or even begins showing at least some competitive effort on the defensive end, it’ll happen again next season and beyond.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook