"I say, 'Wow, it's me, it's good.' Why not? I am who I am and if I'm in this position why can't I read the news about me, what you guys are writing about me and what you say about me? I love this kind of stuff."
-- Alex Ovechkin
-- A lot of people are on the periphery of the hype in this epic Eastern Conference Semifinal round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins
and Washington Capitals
is front and center of it all. As you would expect from the Capitals' energetic left wing, he loves every bit of the attention, which only promises to grow exponentially by Wednesday night when he leads the Caps into Game 7 against the Penguins at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
"It's always great when the fans want to see you and the media gives you more attention than anybody," Ovechkin said Tuesday afternoon at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "It's sick, good and it's fun. But when you play you don't think like, 'Oh my God, right now I have to do something so after the game I can talk about it with the media and the fans.' You just only think about the victory."
In the meantime, though, Ovechkin said he does soak up the attention by reading the articles written about him and watching himself on television, be it in game highlights or on local news interviews.
"All the time," he said with his famous gap-tooth smile. "I love it."
So, what goes through the mind of a superstar when they see themselves on TV or read about themselves in the newspaper or online?
"I say, 'Wow, it's me, it's good,' " Ovechkin said. "Why not? I am who I am and if I'm in this position why can't I read the news about me, what you guys are writing about me and what you say about me? I love this kind of stuff.
"When I come here it was my dream and my dream was to be the best," Ovechkin added. "I work hard and right now I am who I am and I don't want to stop."
By that he meant both being who he is and playing hockey in the NHL this season.
Ovechkin can't wait for Game 7 Wednesday night, but he refuses to call it the biggest game of his life. That one is yet to come.
"It's one of the biggest games of my career," he said. "I hope my biggest game will be this year, just later. You can say when we played seventh game against New York that this was one of the biggest games. (Monday) night was one of the biggest games, too.
"When you're close to moving forward in the second round, you think, 'Darn, it's such a good feeling,' especially last night when (David) Steckel scored his goal," he continued. "Oh my God it was unbelievable, especially in the locker room. Lots of guys that didn't play, like the doctors and the trainers, were all there. It was emotional and everybody was so happy. I hope tomorrow is going to be the same."
For the Capitals to have that same out-of-this-world experience Wednesday night, Ovechkin said they have to continue to play desperate hockey, playoff buzz words for teams facing elimination.
The Caps are 4-0 when playing a win-or-go-home game this season. They're 7-1 dating back to Game No. 82 of the 2007-08 regular season, one they had to win to clinch a playoff berth.
"I think when we're desperate we have more power than anybody and we play such a simple game," Ovechkin said. "You can see (Monday) night in the second period we played so easy and so simple. We need that for 60 minutes. In the first period we knew they were going to come and make some pressure for us and thank god they scored only one goal (despite outshooting Washington, 18-5). We want to do what they do, pressure them, hit the guys and get lots of shots. It's the seventh game and it's going to be fun and it's going to be hard."
And, memorable no matter what the outcome may be.
"In Pittsburgh, in their stadium you can see (the sign), 'It's a great day (for) hockey,' " Ovechkin said, referencing the famous slogan from “Badger" Bob Johnson
. "Tomorrow is going to be a great day to play hockey."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org