It's over again for Ovechkin
The rewrite began from the moment Alex Ovechkin ripped his helmet strap in disgust on the bench, spitting out that familiar English vulgarity that he has learned oh too well over an 11-season NHL career that seems increasingly destined to end without one etching of his name on a Stanley Cup.
This one wasn't his fault. Four goals and seven assists over 12 games, a lot of leadership, a lot of ice time, an endless stream of high-energy, high-physicality shifts. At times, we were told again and again in post-series analysis, he was the best player on the ice.
All true, and all good reasons to credit his effort in this latest defeat to the team that just happens to have the player he entered the league with, and is most often compared to.
But here's what is also true: Ovechkin still tried to do too much in this series, and really the last one, too, often at those critical junctures when less is actually more. No Penguins defenseman iced the puck during Washington power plays more than his often wild one-timers did, and you could probably say the same thing in the Flyers series, despite the Caps' phenomenal success in that department. Even when Ovechkin got that thing on net, your best chance of scoring was if it went cleanly through the chest or abdomen of Penguins goaltender Matt Murray.
It is instructive to note that Ovie's most pivotal play in the Flyers series was about the player and not his shooting prowess. Radko Gudas met him at the Flyers blue line with a hit that would have bounced most players back to center ice, but Ovechkin absorbed it, kept the puck inside of the Flyers zone, and pushed it ahead for what ultimately became the series-deciding goal.
That, to me, is what makes him more special than his considerable shooting skills, that ability to maintain and advance the puck while bouncing around and off of people like a skating linebacker. But he is not a guy with Gretzky vision, and his supreme confidence in what he can do with the puck can really sabotage opportunities, particularly at this time of the year.
The Penguins tried to force a Game 7 Tuesday night. They really did. Not once, not twice, but three times did one of their defensemen flip a puck over the glass over those final minutes, providing an extended stretch of 5-on-3 play. Ovechkin's repeated bombs from the top circle with two teammates parked down low did more to limit the damage than any Penguins strategy did, especially when those errant shots whipped around the boards and down the ice.
And when those multi-man advantages evaporated with just one goal scored – a goal that came only after Ovechkin switched sides so John Carlson could take that shot – the Caps had lost their best chance to grab that lead, complete a rally from an early 3-0 hole and force a seventh game in their building tomorrow night.
And they looked spent. The Penguins finished regulation peppering the Washington goal, and were by far the more dominant team in overtime, outshooting them 7-3.
On the bench when it happened, Ovechkin's understated reaction was that of someone who had been there before – too many times.
This one wasn't his fault, for sure. But he missed a whole lot of opportunities to rewrite his narrative, and his time to do so is growing short.