One of the main storylines in HBO’s 24/7 series on the Capitals and the Penguins was Washington’s losing streak. The streak led to profanity-laced tirades from coach Bruce Boudreau and comments from the media (and pretty much everyone else) that the Washington Capitals were a fractured organization that didn’t have what it took to win.
Well, things are looking a bit better in Caps land these days. The team has regained the Southeast Division lead from the Tampa Bay Lightning and they’ve won 13 of their last 15 games. That stretch included a nine-game winning streak that didn’t attract nearly as much attention as the eight-game losing streak did.
Of course, there’s been a lot of talk all season that the Capitals have been less focused on regular season success this year in hopes that doing so will make them fresher and more prepared for the playoffs. Is that the case? Is what we’re seeing now the Capitals turning up the intensity in hopes of a long playoff run?
The team’s record and their losing ways in the first part of the season haven’t been the only issues in Washington this year. In addition to that eight-game losing streak, the fact that Alex Ovechkin wasn’t lighting the red lamp as often as he had in the past also led to criticism. Even at this point in the season, the Capitals captain has “only” 29 goals in 73 games, which puts him behind Sidney Crosby by three goals. Trailing Crosby wouldn’t normally be too much of a problem, if it wasn’t for the fact that Crosby hasn’t played since early January.
Look what happens when you type in “What’s wrong” into Google. Right after the age old question of “What’s wrong with me?” comes “What’s wrong with Ovechkin?” That’s how many people are wondering about the Capitals superstar.
By the way, conducting that search gives you about 61,200 results, far more than the much less popular “What’s wrong with Seal’s face?” query.
Ovechkin is currently sitting out with an injury, so that could be the problem with him. The Capitals say that that Ovechkin has been bothered by this mysterious injury for months, but some speculate that the team is resting him before the playoffs.
Is that really the case though? Ovechkin may very well be sitting out in order to rest himself for the playoffs, but the idea that the team “sat out” games earlier in the year in order to rest themselves likely isn’t a possibility. Playing well isn’t a switch that teams can turn off and on at will. There’s essentially no chance that the Capitals willingly lost eight games in-a-row in December because they didn’t want to be tired in April. Not only would that be a strange thing to do, but it’s an incredibly risky strategy.
So “What’s wrong with Ovechkin?” Likely the same thing that is “wrong” with the Washington Capitals. Bruce Boudreau and the coaching staff, after witnessing the team’s playoff collapse last season, have changed the style that the Caps play. Their run-and-gun, freewheeling days are behind them. What they’ve been replaced with is a more structured, more responsible system that could bring more playoff success.
Adapting to this style took the Capitals a little while, but now they seem to have embraced it and they’ve started winning again. The downside is that under this style Ovechkin may not light up the scoreboard as often. There’s nothing “wrong” here and Ovechkin hasn’t been slowing himself down all season in order to turn on the jets during the playoffs. What we’re seeing is the Capitals changing their game in hopes that it will bring them a Stanley Cup.