After missing seven of eight games down the stretch with a lower-body injury, there have naturally been some questions regarding how Alex Ovechkin will look in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If Game 1 against the Boston Bruins on Saturday was any indication, Ovechkin will be just fine.
Beginning with his first shift of the series, in which Ovechkin delivered a thunderous open-ice hit on Boston’s David Kreijci, the 35-year-old was dialed in.
“He was skating hard, he was trying to make plays. You can tell with a guy like Alex that it’s playoff hockey. His gears change. He went up and he was effective.”
Ovechkin finished the night with an assist, four shots on goal, eight shot attempts and four hits in 18:52 worth of ice time. Numbers aside, it was the eye test. The hits he delivered were bone crunchers while his burst of speed through the neutral zone kept the Bruins on their toes.
In the second period, just 17 seconds after the Capitals took a 2-1 lead, Ovechkin drew a retaliatory cross-checking penalty on Boston’s Jeremy Lauzon (Lauzon’s response came after Ovechkin delivered a hit on Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller).
In the third period, Ovechkin relied on his speed and strength as he beat Boston winger Jake DeBrusk to gain the Bruins zone, before using a power move to elude a defender and drive to the net for a quality scoring chance.
“He looks like he’s 25 out there,” analyst Ken Sabourin said on the Capitals Radio Network. “We haven’t seen Ovechkin make a move like that in a long time.”
Although the Capitals have a 1-0 series lead, several questions surround the team ahead of Game 2.
- How will their goaltending situation shake out after Vitek Vanecek left the series opener with a lower-body injury?
- How is T.J. Oshie responding after returning from his own lower-body injury?
- And is there any time frame for potential returns for Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov?
As those questions linger, Ovechkin has at least put to rest any concerns about his game.
“When he strides and when he pushes, he’s fast,” Laviolette said. “When he hits, he’s physical. When he shoots, it’s hard and a has a chance of going in the net. So, I don’t see a slowdown with regard to that.”
Catch Game 2 between the Capitals and Bruins at 7 p.m. on Monday. Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. on 1500AM.