Alex Ovechkin is 26 years old and has been one of the NHL's most prolific scorers in recent years, becoming only the fourth player all-time to post four 50-goal campaigns in his first five seasons (Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were the others).
"He's the most exciting guy in the league," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said after a 4-1 victory over Nashville last week. Then the young blueliner paused and added, "When he's on his game."
And therein lies the rub. Ovechkin has been more often the Good Eight than the Great Eight lately.
Capitals coach Dale Hunter thinks Ovechkin's struggles are because defenses are keying in on him. "It's a chore to try to get a shot," explains Hunter. "Some games he will spring with seven shots and other games he has to battle to get them."
It's a theory, but it's hard to imagine a skater who joined Gretzky and Lemieux as the only players to record 200 goals and 200 assists in their first four NHL seasons is just now being singled out by NHL defensemen. Perhaps there is a different reason for the lower goal totals. Perhaps Alex Ovechkin has simply peaked.