What a difference an offseason has made for Alex Ovechkin

What a difference an offseason has made for Ovechkin originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Capitals came up just short in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, but it was not due to the efforts of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin scored Washington’s lone goal, nearly scored another 14 seconds later and recorded a game-high eight shots on goal.

In a game that featured Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, the 36-year-old Ovechkin was still the most dangerous offensive player on the ice. After the way the 2021 season ended, who would have thought that would be the case to start the 2021-22 season?

“He’s certainly moving better,” Peter Laviolette said. “You can tell that he’s had a good summer, good training camp.”

Ovechkin’s goal on Saturday was already his third of the season in just two games. With the score deadlocked at 0-0 late in the second period, Ovechkin found some room in the high slot and fired a shot through the 5-hole of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had been brilliant to that point. Just 14 seconds later, Ovechkin had another opportunity that beat Vasilevskiy, hit off the post, hit off of Vasileskiy’s back and trickled to the goal line. Just before it crossed completely, Vasilevskiy managed to get his glove on it. It was called a goal on the ice, but was overturned after a review.

Vasilevskiy also managed to swing the pad over just in time to deny an Ovechkin shot from the office in the first period and Ovechkin hit the knob of Vasilevskiy’s stick in the third.

And this was against the best goalie in the world. Anyone else and the story of this game could be Ovechkin’s hat trick.

In 2021, the remarkably durable Ovechkin suffered injury issues that forced him to miss seven games. But if you thought the 2021 season would mark the beginning of the end for Ovechkin in terms of being among the most lethal goal-scorers in the league, his start to the season shows clearly this is not the case.

“Everything was just a little bit off last year,” Laviolette said. “Still had a good year last year, but you can see the jump and this year, just looks like he’s moving better. When you’re moving better, you’re getting in spaces and you’re finding plays. His goals last game that he scored, he’s beating people to the inside and getting inside position, getting his shot off so he looks good.”

It may be just a two-game sample size, but if an injury-riddled 2021 and an injury in the preseason finale that threatened his availability at the start of the season could not slow Ovechkin down, there’s no reason to think he’s going to slow down anytime soon.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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