Alex Ovechkin

For Caps and Ovechkin, 2015 Winter Classic is another sign ‘everything has changed’


In a sprawling feature for regarding the 2015 Winter Classic, Alex Ovechkin discusses how far the Washington Capitals franchise has come since his rookie season. He states that “everything has changed.”

Really, though, the same could be said for his game and his team on the ice.

“Our group of guys here now are more mature,” Ovechkin said. “We’re ready to take a big step. It’s something when you’re growing up you can see how it’s changed. It’s a great thing when you’re a part of it. Me and Brooks and Greenie are the only three guys that have been here after the [2004-05] lockout.

“I’ve been growing up. I get mature. I get older. I look at the game in a different way right now. It’s hard to explain. When I’m on the ice I want to do something different than I did the first couple years.”

Ovechkin, 29, was speaking about Brooks Laich and Mike Green in that quote. Laich had some interesting insight on the Capitals star’s goals, noting that Ovechkin’s trophy case is full of individual awards, so his sights are absolutely set on accolades regarding team play.

While Laich has seen that metamorphosis first hand, head coach Barry Trotz is in his first season guiding Ovechkin, yet he’s had glowing reviews about the winger’s willingness to adapt.

” … I don’t know that there’s been a physical superstar like Alex in the league since, I don’ know, [Eric] Lindros when he was young?” Trotz said.

“[Mark] Messier, maybe? Those guys are few and far between. Usually, the high-end guys aren’t as physical as Alex. He doesn’t get intimidated. It’s funny. The harder you are on him the more revved up he gets, which is sort of cool with a star. There are times he reverts to some of his old habits, but a lot of those things have been ironed out.”

The Capitals stand face-to-face with a team that’s enjoyed the high-level successes they’re striving for when they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park on NBC tomorrow.

For more, check out that great story on Ovechkin and the Capitals.

Letang, Hornqvist miss Pens’ practice


Defenseman Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist did not participate in the Penguins practice Sunday.

According to head coach Mike Johnston, Hornqvist is expected to miss “a few weeks” with a lower body injury.

Letang left the Penguins 3-0 loss to the Capitals late in the third period Saturday after blocking a shot from Alex Ovechkin.

“Letang is basically a bruise. We just let it settle down today and I expect he’ll skate in the morning skate tomorrow,” said Johnston. “I don’t know for sure if (Letang) will play … he’ll get a skate tomorrow and see how he is.”

Pittsburgh visits the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.

Video: Ovechkin crushes Letang, Capitals cruise by the Penguins


The Washington Capitals weren’t in a festive mood. Feisty, yes. Festive, no.

Take, for instance, this clip of Capitals star Alex Ovechkin throwing a massive hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang early on in the third period of Saturday’s game. Letang saw the collision coming just a split second before it occurred, but by then it was too late, as Ovechkin ran over the smooth-skating blue liner.

It was all part of a 3-0 Capitals victory. Eric Fehr scored twice for Washington, including the winner all the way back in the first period. Earlier in the game, Capitals’ forward Tom Wilson caught Penguins’ forward Brandon Sutter with a heavy hit that also appeared to be up high, although there was no call on the play.

Already dealing with injuries this season, the Penguins were without forward Patric Hornqvist for the final two periods, after he left the game with a reported injury after taking a puck off the skate.

PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Ovechkin’s great big year of disappointment


For Alex Ovechkin, 2014 could’ve been a special year.

Instead, it was highlighted by disappointment and frustration.

Consider, this is what Ovechkin was saying prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics in his native Russia:

“Of course I want to [win gold]… it’s my dream.”

And this is what he was saying after Russia crashed out to Finland in the quarterfinals:

“It sucks. What else can I say?”

No, Russia’s failure wasn’t solely Ovechkin’s fault, but he did shoulder part of the blame after scoring just one goal in five games. He was even singled out by his coach in the post-match press conference. “He has 40 goals in the NHL. I cannot explain.”

Then, on top of that, after Ovechkin returned to the NHL, his Washington Capitals proceeded to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

While Ovechkin finished the season with a league-leading 51 goals, his minus-35 rating only emboldened those who’ve argued he’s not committed to playing defensively-sound hockey. And when yet another Caps coach was fired? It was you-know-who that many identified as the culprit.

Now, certainly, nobody has ever questioned Ovechkin’s talent, and there’s no doubt he’s the one most responsible for the popularity of the Capitals in a town where they were an afterthought before he arrived. He’s a three-time NHL MVP. He remains one of the game’s biggest stars.

It’s what Ovechkin isn’t that many can’t ignore. He’s not a Selke Trophy candidate, that’s for sure. But more importantly, he’s not a Stanley Cup champion. Or, for that matter, an Olympic gold medalist.

In hockey, it’s the players who lead their teams to championships that end up with the most respect. And no, in North America, World Championships don’t count.

Granted, Ovechkin’s story has yet to be fully written. He’s still only 29, he’s still dazzling fans, and the Caps have shown improvement this season under a new coach.

The year 2014 though?

Could’ve gone better.

Ex-Blackhawk Barker heads back to KHL


The nomadic Cam Barker is back on the move again — on Monday, KHL club HC Slovan Bratislava announced it had inked the former No. 3 overall pick to a contract.

Barker, 28, had been playing North America earlier this year, first in training camp with the Blackhawks, then with their AHL affiliate in Rockford. The veteran defenseman was released by the IceHogs in early October.

Taken behind Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Barker looked like he was on his way to a productive NHL career when, in 2008-09, he scored a career-high 40 points in 68 games for Chicago, and nine more in 17 playoff appearances.

But that proved to be the high point.

Barker was then 1) traded to Minnesota, 2) bought out by the Wild, 3) signed by Edmonton, 4) not tendered a qualifying offer by the Oilers, 5) on a PTO with AHL Texas, 6) signed by Vancouver, 7) inked by KHL Barys Astana before 8) getting invited to Chicago’s camp this fall.

Quite the journey.