Ovechkin tackled the 2017/18 NHL playoffs like a man on a mission and
ultimately achieved it by leading the Washington Capitals to the franchise's
first Stanley Cup since entering the league in 1974. The 32-year-old Russian
winger was the catalyst for his team's five-game victory over the expansion
Golden Vegas Knights in the finals after dispatching the Columbus Blue Jackets
and Pittsburgh Penguins in six games and then the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven in
the Eastern Conference Final.
Ovechkin just finished his 13th NHL campaign and this was the first
time he made it past the second round of the playoffs. However things were
decidedly different this year as he racked up a league-leading 15 goals along
with 12 assists for 27 points in 24 postseason contests and also captured the
Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs beating out
teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and goaltender Braden Holtby in the voting. The
victory came in the Capitals' second appearance in the finals as they were
swept in four games by the Detroit Red wings back in 1997/98.
They're also just the seventh team to win the championship after losing their
first two postseason games as they were down to Columbus 2-0 in the first round
this year. In addition, Ovechkin entered the playoffs as the only multiple
winner of the Hart Trophy to never win a Stanley Cup and that awkward milestone
has now been eliminated. Ovechkin, who has missed just 29 regular-season games
during his NHL career, certainly had some help in the postseason, but his
leadership and enthusiasm for the game made him the team's driving force.
Kuznetsov led the league in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 20 assists for 32
points and was followed by Ovechkin's 27 points and then Nicklas Backstrom with
five goals and 18 assists for 23 points. The line of Kuznetsov, Lars Eller
(7-11-18) and Backstrom chipped in with 73 points while goaltender Braden
Holtby posted a 2.16 goals-against average with a 92.2 save percentage. The
Capitals' power play went five for 16 against Vegas in the finals for a success
rate of 31.3 per cent and it went 22 for 75 overall in the playoffs for a con
version rate of 29.3 per cent.
Backstrom, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie all scored at least
11 power play points in the postseason with Carlson scoring 20 and Oshie
racking up 21 points overall. Ovechkin, who led the league in scoring for the
seventh time this year with 49 goals, is the first Russian-born player to captain
a Stanley-Cup winner and the pressure's definitely been lifted from his
shoulders. He was often the scapegoat of previous Washington squads as they
struggled to succeed in the playoffs, but Ovechkin's always pulled his weight
and now has 61 goals and 56 assists for 117 points in 121 career playoff games.
This includes one point in each of the five games in this year's final
Labels: Ian Palmer