Ovechkin speaks to the media at Kettler on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)
Alex Ovechkin played in 86 games between the NHL and KHL this year. Though the season was lockout-shortened, several Capitals stars were still bruised and battered. Nick Backstrom injured his neck in Russia, Brooks Laich injured his groin in Switzerland, and various others dropped off along the way. We know now Ovi was playing through some sort of injury as well.
“Of course, there were aches and pains,” he told Slava Malamud of Sport-Express in Russian after game seven Monday. “Won’t say anything about needles, but injuries are always there. There were enough hits and physical play.”
So when did this all happen? Well, Ovi didn’t play well during the latter half of Washington’s first round loss to the New York Rangers; no one on the Capitals did. Despite scoring a goal in game one and notching an assist in game two, Ovi was held off the scoresheet for the rest of the series. At times during games three and four in New York, he was invisible. He did pick up his play towards the end of the series, but by then, it was too late.
As Ian already argued, there’s reason to believe Ovi may have been hurt (or conceivably aggravated something) in game three. As Ovechkin carried the puck into the Rangers’ zone during the first period, Rangers defenseman Aaron Stralman caught Ovi awkwardly along the boards with a hip check. Ovechkin had trouble getting up and labored in his strides back to the bench.
The Great Eight, insists that this didn’t injure him.
“I was ready physically,” he said of the series, again to Slava. “It wasn’t [Stralman's hit], [the injury] actually didn’t even happen in game three.”
You have to wonder if whatever ailment Ovechkin was struggling through, changed the course of the Capitals/Rangers series after Washington took a commanding 2-0 lead after games one and two.
Anyway, this season is done now. The Capitals lost. The summer has begun. Ovi has thoughts on that too.
“The most important thing is to re-sign Ribs,” he told Malamud. “It will be tough without him. Whether Kuzya can come next season or not, I have no idea. I am not going to advise him or tell him to drop everything and run here. He has his own head on his shoulders. He isn’t a 17-year-old kid anymore.”
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.