Milbury: ‘I’ve never been against Ovechkin’

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One of Alex Ovechkin’s most outspoken critics never doubted the Capitals’ captain could rediscover his superstar form. And now that Ovechkin has done just that, NBC analyst Mike Milbury is happy for him.

But Milbury’s words weren’t very kind on Feb. 27, when he said Ovechkin “should be ashamed of himself” and “embarrassed” for his performance against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Today, Ovechkin is tied with Steven Stamkos for the most goals in the NHL and, not coincidentally, the Caps are a good bet to win the Southeast Division.

“It’s funny, that day [NBC studio host] Liam McHugh asked me if I thought he could turn it around and I said, ‘Yeah, he’s got the physical attributes to be a superstar again,” Milbury told CSN Washington.

“The game in Philly was alarming for the reasons that I illustrated. He seemed lost and who knows why. The lockout; time off; new coach; [Nicklas] Backstrom not playing very well; he’s not playing with Backstrom; they got him playing in a different position. But the fact of the matter was that he was nowhere near what he was capable of being.

“There’s nothing more frustrating for me as a former coach and manager watching a guy with abilities like that to fall short, particularly when it comes to paying attention to detail or mental or physical effort. He was falling short there. I have no idea what happened in the interim but I’m glad for him and for the Capitals that it has. They’re in a much better place with this Alex than the other one. It’s a tribute to him.

“So many people attribute the coaches with the credit, but it’s always the player that has to bear the brunt of the criticism and reap the rewards of success, and whatever he’s doing I applaud him for it. I think it’s great because he was in a dark place a couple months ago.”

Milbury added that he’s “never been against Ovechkin,” but at the time, “it seemed like there was less care than there should have been, whether it was physically or mentally, it looked to me to be both. But God bless him, he’s turned it around and so have the Capitals.”

The next step for Ovechkin, according to Milbury, is to perform in the postseason.

“All great players have to establish themselves as clutch playoff performers if they really want to achieve greatness,” said Milbury. “Last year his ice time was cut in the playoffs and now it’s time he steps up in the playoffs. As Adam Oates said, he’s gotta be the man.”

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