Wednesday, September 7, 2011

‘Serious’ Ovie Promises Better

Alex Ovechkin is making two things clear this week – he’s not fat and he’s sick of losing in the playoffs.

After looking like a mere mortal last season with 32 goals and 85 points in 79 games, Ovechkin is switching equipment companies, he’s been working with a different personal trainer (again) and he’s promising that his Capitals will be more “serious” this season.

The Caps superstar was at the team’s training facility on Tuesday to announce his new endorsement deal with Nike/Bauer after several years with CCM, but no one really wanted to talk equipment.

The line of questioning quickly went from his gear to his gut, and Ovie was forced to explain why he looked a bit chubby in a late-July interview. Incase you missed it, there was a “Caps 365” video posted to the NHL website earlier this summer that featured a chat with Ovechkin, wherein he appeared to be sporting a bit of a Party Bulge in his midsection.

Here’s what he had to say on Tuesday about that:

“I think it’s a bad video camera situation. That photo, it was kind of strange. When I get back home my friends start just killing me, saying, ‘Hey, did you see that? Did you see that?’ I said ‘What happened? What happened?’ They said ‘You look kind of fat.”

While Ovie was assuring reporters that it was nothing more than an optical illusion and his body is “perfect” at the moment, Caps owner Ted Leonsis had some interesting comments about his captain’s fitness during the 2009-10 season.

Remember when we all thought that Ovechkin’s numbers were down because he had bought in to a defence-first brand of hockey that was going to take his team to the promised land?

According to Leonsis, here’s what actually happened: Ovie “tried something different” last season and it didn’t quite work. His plan was apparently to work his way into shape throughout the year so that he’d be peaking during the playoffs. It doesn’t sound like the brightest idea, and it didn’t turn out to be – Ovechkin registered his lowest point total in six seasons (though he was still over a point per game) and the Caps crashed out in the second round of the playoffs.

That brings us to the other interesting comments made by the captain on Tuesday.

Former Caps winger Matt Bradley made headlines this summer when he said that some guys “didn’t show up” and the team was “a little bit too nonchalant” in the playoffs last year, statements that were backed up by another former Capital in the following weeks.

Well, Ovechkin all but agreed with those comments himself when asked about the postseason disappointment:

“It doesn’t matter what position you are – if you’re first or second or eighth, you have to be ready for everything because you can see when we go to the playoffs and we play against Tampa, sometimes we felt like, ‘OK, now it’s gonna be easy for us to beat them.’ It was not that kind of series. Everything can happen, but seriousness means serious every 60 minutes and every game.”

So, it doesn’t sound like Bradley was too far off in his assessment of the Caps locker room, but how much will that change this season? Ovechkin is a top-notch competitor and you know he’s going to be hungry for a big season after a sub-par year (by his standards) in 2009-10.

The challenge for him will be getting Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green to match his intensity for 82+ games.

What do you think: Will Alex Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup with the Capitals?

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