ARLINGTON, Va. - A day after turning 30, Alex Ovechkin opened training camp with the Washington Capitals for his 11th NHL season.
If the guy known as "Ovi" was blas? about the milestone birthday ? "Next year, it's going to be 31," he noted with a shrug ? his attitude about entering his second decade in the league took on a far more serious tone Friday.
"I feel like a real veteran right now, obviously. We have to do some big things right now," Ovechkin said, "because (it's been) 10 years, and obviously it's been the same thing."
By "same thing," he presumably was referring to Washington's failure to win more than one series in any post-season since Ovechkin joined the team. He also could have meant the 3-6 record in Game 7s.
Last season, for example, the Capitals took a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven second-round series against the New York Rangers, then were 101 seconds from closing it out in Game 5, but wound up eliminated with a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7.
"Every year we talk about, 'This team can do something.' I think right now, it's not (for) talking. We have to do it," said Ovechkin, wearing an aqua T-shirt and shorts, along with flip-flops. "It's 10 years. We have to move forward and take a big step."
The Russian left wing led the NHL with 53 goals last season, making him one of only six players in history to reach at least 50 a half-dozen times. The others? Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur.
"The consistency's unbelievable," said new Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie, acquired in a trade that sent Troy Brouwer to St. Louis. "I feel like a lot of us are just scratching to get to 20 every year, and he's working his way up to 50."
Capitals coach Barry Trotz has praised Ovechkin for being a better two-way player last season, but both men know there is an even larger aim out there.
And like Ovechkin, Trotz isn't shy about saying so.
"The biggest thing with Alex is getting him to win a championship. It's all-in, and it's important that we get that done, you know? I want to do it with him ??? and a group of guys that are willing ??? quickly," said Trotz, entering his second season with Washington.
"He's gone through a lot of things here," Trotz said. "He was a young phenom, to a solid veteran, to a great leader, to one of the best goal scorers and dynamic players that fill the seats night-in and night-out that the game has known. So I think the next step for him is to try to find that ring."
Plus, of course, Ovechkin is not getting any younger.
There are reminders of that.
There's his age, of course, and the greying temples.
He said he celebrated Thursday with dinner at a restaurant, because he wanted to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
"I mean, I guess there's a lifespan," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "He's still coming to the rink with energy. There's still enthusiasm there. He still likes to play. ... Maybe he slows down. I don't know. It's hard to project. He could keep it going because he's a goal scorer."
Note: C Nicklas Backtrom, who had off-season hip surgery, didn't want to put a timetable on when he'll begin to practice with teammates or play in a regular-season game, but MacLellan said: "I guess we're saying now somewhere in that first 10 games, depending on how he feels."
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