How do the Caps get over their playoff hump?
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin drew a lot of attention for his comments regarding the officiating during the Capitals’ first-round playoff loss to the New York Rangers.
Wearing a black and white T-shirt that read, “Where The Blank Is The Finish Line?” Ovechkin addressed with reporters everything from his wardrobe to his feelings about Adam Oates and the responsibility he shoulders for another early playoff exit.
Here’s a transcript of Monday's interview:
What made you choose that T-shirt?
It was in my closet.
When you look back at the series, you had one goal and one assist. What do you think the biggest reason was?
[Henrik] Lundqvist. He was unbelievable. Myself and my line, we didn’t find a way to score goals. Five on five our line scored one goal. At that level and that intense of game, you just can’t win and can’t get results for the team. We have lots of ice time and you have that kind of chances to score goals and you don’t score. You get frustrated after a big loss to end the series. It was there and we just missed it.
Is there more you could have done?
To be honest with you I don’t think anybody in our locker room didn’t give everything they can. Of course the chances that we had in New York in [Game] 6, they score one goal and they sit back and don’t let us pressure Lundqvist.
How difficult was being shut down, especially after you were scoring a goal a game for the second half of the season?
To be honest with you guys, in the playoffs it doesn’t matter if you score or not, you have to win. Team success is the most important thing out there. Sometimes I play good and I get two points in a game and we still lose. What’s the reason why? I don’t score we lose, I score we lose. Everybody has to make a difference. I had great chances to move forward and push hard but something was not working. Maybe they just stop us. My position is to leave it and move forward from it.
Some of your teammates said this was the best team they’ve been on in Washington. How do you feel?
Yeah, the group of guys, we have so much experience together. In the beginning of the year when we were down in the standings and the game was not that good, we had lots of talk, lots of communication with the guys and after that we begin to play like a good team. Everybody was supporting each other and it was tight, you know? We did some good things this year but personally, we lost, and almost one guy do it. Of course they have a good team. They have great players and a great defensive team, but the goalie out there was unbelievable. It was like he was the best in the league.
Did it remind you of the  Montreal series with Jaroslav Halak?
Not really. Two different teams, two different systems.
Was it really that simple? Was it all Lundqvist in your mind or was there anything else?
In my mind, yeah. In my mind it was Lundqvist. Again, they are a great team but Lundqvist was unbelievable, just unbelievable.
The Rangers had 28 power plays; the Caps had 16. What do you think was the reason for that?
That’s not my call. I don’t skate with a whistle. I skate with a stick. My job’s to play the game and somebody else’s job is to look at the game and make decisions.
Do you think the series was called fairly?
I said everything [Monday night] and I don’t really want to repeat it.
Are there lessons to be learned from this year?
Every year after we lose the playoffs I hear that kind of question. What lesson? What lesson? The lesson is keep trying and keep doing what you have to do and do your best. I think we have too much lessons, this group of guys, and bad lessons. I hope next year is going to be much, much better. Of course it will be a longer season. I hope in the summertime everybody is going to be healthy on our team.
How are you feeling right now?
I feel good.
Were you dealing with any injuries during the playoffs?
A couple bruises, but nothing major.
Do you feel you grew as a player under Adam Oates?
Yeah, of course. At the beginning of the year, when we were talking together we don’t know each other well. As the season goes we start talking and we start know each other better and now I can tell to work with him is one of the biggest keys to my success this year. I talked to [Steven] Stamkos when we had the NHLPA meeting [during the lockout] and he said, ‘You’re going to like to work with him.’ Now I understand what he said, I see it.
What impact do you think Adam had on the rest of the team?
You can feel everybody is on the same page. Take somebody like Chimmer [Jason Chimera]. He didn’t have the best year in the season, but in the playoffs he was outstanding I think he did an unbelievable job out there. I feel like I’ve grown up as a player. It’s not about only Oates, it’s all the coaches. They bring some confidence to the group in the locker room and that was an important thing for us.
What did Oates do for you?
When I had the puck on my curve, I just want to shoot the puck. Now he said if I want to make a decision [to pass], make that decision. We talk about plays all the time and you realize what to do out there.
Are you a better player now than when you were when you were scoring 50 or 60 goals?
You guys can tell me that. My teammates can say it. It’s not my job to decide my game.
Do you feel differently about your game?
Right now I’m right wing. That’s all I can say. I can play left wing or right wing. It’s a big step in my career.
Karl Alzner said players want to be judged by winning, like LeBron James winning an NBA championship and making people believe in him. Do you feel the same way, that winning is what people look at most when judging a player’s career?
Yep. Winning gives you everything. Nobody remembers losers. Everybody remembers winners. We’re in that kind of position where we’re bad, but that’s why when you’re growing up you have to move. I think we’re going to do lots of work this summer and I hope this group of guys sticks together.”
Do you have any worries you might not get that playoff success you want?
For me personally, the playoffs is not about one player. If we win Game 7 we’re not talking about my success or not my success. We’re just talking about how we need to play against Boston. Of course, when you lose a game or you lose a series everybody tries to find the guy who didn’t do something. As a captain and as a player I can see everybody do exactly what they have to do. Of course there’s misplays by me, by everybody. That’s why there’s five guys out there to cover mistakes. One guy can’t win a championship.
You said you hope this team stays together. Do you see that happening?
It’s not my call. I don’t know how many free agents we have. Ribs [Mike Ribeiro] and Hendy [Matt Hendricks]? I hope we’re going to sign them and they’re going stay here. That’s not my call. It’s not my decision. I don’t know much about the salary cap and all that kind of stuff. Hopefully, George [McPhee] and Adam [Oates] are going to talk about who they want to see in the lineup. I just have to go out there and do my best, but I hope Ribs and Hendy are going to sign and stay here.
This team has been together a while. Do you worry about changes being made?
You don’t know what’s going to happen. Of course I check to see if I’m traded or not. [Laughs] It’s an interesting time for guys but you don’t want guys to leave in the summer.
Do you feel this team if it stays together can win a championship?
Yeah, of course.
When did you decide to go play for Russia in the World Championships?
[Tuesday] morning. They just called me and asked if I would go. The situation is kind of tough but I still want to play. I didn’t want to take off. I want to just play hockey. If I was not in game shape or I took two weeks off of course it would be much harder for me to make a decision. But I’m in good shape and mentally I think I’m ready.