Will Ovechkin make Game 7 his stage?

Will Ovechkin make Game 7 his stage?
April 25, 2012, 5:47 pm
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Alex Ovechkin has played in four Game 7s in his seven-year career with the Capitals.

Hes recorded four points in those games, winning one and losing three.

Tonights Game 7 between the Capitals and Boston Bruins at TD Garden 7:30, Comcast SportsNet promises to be another defining moment for the Capitals 26-year-old captain.

The emotion is high, Ovechkin said after the Capitals morning skate today. Sometimes you just cant wait for the game to start. Im very excited.

Surrounded by cameras and microphones in a crowded visiting locker room, Ovechkin was asked if he believes tonights Game 7 is a stage for him to exhibit his greatness.

Of course you want to play hard and play well, he said. But the most important thing is to win. It can be the last game for both teams and I hope its going to be good luck for us and we can clinch and continue in the playoffs.

OK, so Ovechkin wasnt Mr. Definitive with that answer. And, truth be told, he has not been Mr. Dominant through the first six games of this wildly competitive series.

Through six games Ovechkin leads the Capitals with five playoff points 2 goals, 3 assists, 28 shots and 28 hits and is even on the plus-minus ledger while averaging 20:12 of ice time. By comparison, Sidney Crosby had three goals, five assists and was a minus-3 while averaging 20:36 in the Penguins six-game elimination by the Flyers.

He plays hard, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said of Ovechkin. He enjoys playing a physical game and thats why hes always a fan favorite. He can score, hes physical and thats what hell be tonight again.

Despite all the attention Ovechkin will receive tonight both from Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and a scrutinous national media he says hes learned as much this season as in any other in his career.

His 38 goals and 65 points were well below his career averages, but so was his average ice time of 19:48, which was more than 3 minutes below the amount he logged while recording 112 and 110 points in 2008 and 2009.

I dont think its been a frustrating year and the year is not over yet, Ovechkin said. Were going to play and were going to fight. Its not going to be just a game, its going to be a real battle and almost like a war.

Capitals defenseman Mike Green said that because of Hunters defense-first approach, there has been less pressure placed on guys like Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom to score and more ice time given to more defensive-minded players like Jay Beagle, Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks.

Its not going to be one player that wins you a championship, Green said. Its a team game and we have that this year. Were all on the same page and we need to work together and pull on the same rope.

Its different than in the past but its better, Green said. Theres not as much pressure. Its more of a team game. The third- and fourth-line guys are playing a lot more minutes and it gives everybody a chance to pull their weight. Its not just Alex and Alex and Nick. Its going to take everybody.

For many of the Capitals core players tonight is an opportunity to cleanse themselves of the three Game 7s that ended with them on the wrong side of the handshake line. Of their last four Game 7s dating back to their return to the playoffs in 2008, the Caps have won just one.

Every year is a different year, Ovechkin said. Its probably the biggest game of the year and maybe for a career for most of the guys. Right now we have a chance to close the door for the playoffs for the Stanley Cup champions last year. We want to do it. Everybody right now is excited and cant wait to do the job. Everybody feels healthy and everybody is relaxed.

Green said that although the Capitals have not received the desired result in three of their four their previous Game 7s, he senses something different about this team.

You dont know what to expect when youre younger, he said. But weve been there and done it and well take that experience and run with it. Were confident and were gonna do this.