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Capitals' moves about fulfilling promise to Ovechkin

by Dan Rosen

WASHINGTON -- The notable changes made by the Washington Capitals during the offseason, such as adding forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie and letting defenseman Mike Green leave via free agency, are the latest in a long line of organizational juggling geared toward getting the Capitals closer to winning the Stanley Cup.

Reaching that goal, according to chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis, also would mean achieving fulfilment of a promise made to captain Alex Ovechkin, who is entering the eighth year of his 13-year, $124 million contract but has not played beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Leonsis doesn't put that lack of playoff success on Ovechkin; he puts that on everyone around the star captain.

"I feel we haven't done what we've promised Alex, not that Alex hasn't done his part," Leonsis told "We have to keep trying, keep investing, keep trying to find that magic. We get so close. But we have to organizationally fight through for the fans, for all the executives, for all the players. Alex deserves it. He puts in the time. He puts in the work. He's a historic player. And he hasn't slowed down."

Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy three straight seasons. He scored 53 goals last season after scoring 51 in 2013-14. He was a plus-10 last season, the first under coach Barry Trotz, after finishing minus-35 in 2013-14 under former coach Adam Oates.

He has 475 goals and 895 points in 760 regular-season games, but his playoff numbers are not in line with his regular season stats. Ovechkin has 36 goals and 70 points in 72 postseason games, including five goals and nine points in 14 games last spring.

Ovechkin gave Washington a 1-0 lead in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Rangers last season, scoring with a hard shot from the slot off a backhanded feed to the middle from Marcus Johansson at 12:50 of the first period. He had six shots on goal and nine shot attempts in the game, and he wasn't on the ice for either of the Rangers' two goals in the overtime loss.

"Our fans really appreciate him because anything can happen still," Leonsis said. "That's how they feel. The last playoff series, the very last game, he guarantees we're going to win and he scores this unbelievable goal to start the game. We didn't win, but he's still worth the price of admission. He's not afraid of the big stage. That's why I feel our window is still open. He's your best player and he doesn't shrink from it."

Leonsis said he noticed a difference in Ovechkin last season, particularly at the 2015 NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Ovechkin was a finalist for the Hart Trophy, which was won by Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.

Leonsis wondered if that would bother Ovechkin. It didn't.

"Maybe five years ago that would have," Leonsis said.

It doesn't bother Ovechkin, Leonsis said, because he thinks Ovechkin adopted a singular focus, the same focus he believes the rest of the organization has now too.

"The only trophy he wants is the Stanley Cup, and it's very clear that's what we have to deliver on," Leonsis said. "We don't have anything else to talk about or worry about except being in the bubble and trying to win a Cup."


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