Capitals' Alex Ovechkin wary he 'didn't play well' in sweep

ByGreg Wyshynski ESPN logo
Monday, April 29, 2024

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin took the blame for his team's opening round sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers, the first time the star winger ever went scoreless in a playoff series.

"It's always tough to lose a series. We had pretty good chances. We just didn't score. Our line didn't score lots of goals," he said after a 4-2 Rangers win on Sunday night in Washington, D.C. "Blame me. I didn't play well."

Ovechkin, 38, played 15:26 in Game 4, his sixth-smallest amount of ice time in a playoff game. That included just 3:22 in the first period -- 16 seconds less than New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe.

Ovechkin said after Game 4 that he was healthy in the series.

The sweep marked the first time in Ovechkin's 15 trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs that he was held without a point in a series. His five shots on goal were also a career postseason low: While Ovechkin was tied for 19th in the regular season in shots on goal (272), he failed to register a shot in Games 1 and 4 against the Rangers.

It was a rough series for Ovechkin beyond the score traditional score sheet. Washington coach Spencer Carbery said that his captain was "struggling" after their Game 2 loss to the Rangers, which included a critical Ovechkin turnover on a power play that led to a shorthanded goal that gave New York a 4-2 lead late in the second period.

Carbery hoped that home ice advantage in Games 3 and 4 might offer Ovechkin friendlier matchups, but the winger couldn't get his offense going.

One major issue was the Capitals' power play, which was humbled by the Rangers' penalty kill. Washington went 0-for-8 at home in Games 3 and 4, going 2-for-17 in the series.

Ovechkin is tied for eighth all-time in postseason power-play goals (28 in 151 games).

"The power play is such a big part of it, when it's struggling and he's not getting opportunities," Carbery said. "They checked him so tightly over there that every time he gets the puck, he has a half second to make a play and there's usually a stick and some shin pads on it. I think that played a major role for him in this series."

But the bigger issues, according to the Capitals coach, was how much energy Ovechkin had to expend just to get the team into the postseason in the final wild-card spot. Ovechkin scored 13 goals in his last 17 games of the season.

"I think that this year, leaning on him down the stretch the second half of the year, he did an incredible job finding his game,"Carbery said. "We were so scoring challenged all season long. In the second half [after the trade deadline] it was even more of a challenge. That was a lot, the second half of the year. Especially the last two weeks where every game felt like life and death for our team. I felt like that took a lot out of him physically and mentally heading into the playoffs."

Next season will be Ovechkin's 20th in the NHL. He's 41 goals away from equaling Wayne Gretzky's NHL career record total.

Throughout his record chase, Ovechkin has been adamant that he wants to play for a Capitals team that contends for the postseason and not just one trying to service his pursuit of history.

When asked if he's worried this might be his last trip to the playoffs, Ovechkin said, "I hope I'm still going to get a couple more chances."

The Rangers, winners of the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best record, advance to the second round to face the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes vs. the New York Islanders, which Carolina leads 3-1.

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