Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/9/12

And, no, the title does not reference the two Alex’s who sport the hometown red sweaters of the Washington Capitals: Ovechkin and Semin.  Rather, it’s about Alex Ovechkin in the first 34 games of the season vs. the #8 that’s played in the last four games.  At the risk of sounding trite, it’s almost as if there have been two different individuals wearing the jersey that displays the Captain’s “C” for Washington.  Let’s take a brief look at the numbers.

In the first 34 games of the 2011-2012 regular season, Alex Ovechkin scored 25 points — 12 goals and 13 assists — clearly not Ovechkin-like production, give that in every one of his previous six seasons, he has averaged well over a point per game played.  His lack of scoring and overall lackluster play was the talk of every true Capitals fan.

Then, in the first four games following the Holiday break in December,  which took place over a seven-day period, the Great 8 scored five goals and had three assists!  What a difference!  It’s not clear what caused the difference, but whatever it was, Capitals coach Dale Hunter needs to figure it out and make sure it keeps happening.

That’s because not only has Alex Ovechkin been playing better, but the rest of Washington’s team has stepped up their game as well.  Over the last four games, Washington has outscored opponents 14 to 5 and taken away pucks 28 times vs. only 18 for their opponents.  It appears that they rise to the occasion whenever Ovechkin is really on his game.

All this good news notwithstanding, the Capitals’ glaring shortcoming continues to be in giveaways.  During this four game span, the Caps have coughed up the puck 39 times vs. only 19 for their opponents.  Those giveaways have a lot to do with the Capitals being outshot 114 to 91 over those same four games.  And, to give credit where credit is due, without the absolutely superb goaltending of Tomas Vokoun, who has stopped 109 of those 114 shots (a 95.6% save percentage), the outcomes would surely have been different.

So at the end of the day, it’s clear that:

  • Alex Ovechkin is currently playing like the Ovechkin of the past
  • As Ovechkin goes, so go the Capitals
  • A “hot goalie” is as much a key to success as is offensive firepower

We can only hope that #8 continues in a fashion that earned him the nickname “Great”.

Let’s Go Caps!

 

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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