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Ovechkin hopes his many goals yield one goal for Caps

by Evan Grossman
Alexander Ovechkin knows what's expected from the Washington Capitals in 2007-08.
Alexander Ovechkin has big plans for the Washington Capitals this season.

“My goal is to make the playoffs and I have to score goals and everybody has to score goals,” he said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “So my goal is to score goals and try to win games.”

Ovechkin, who has been in the NHL for two seasons now, has never had a problem scoring goals. But with a re-tooled Capitals team surrounding him this season, the expectations are a little higher in Washington and the wins will likely be a lot more plentiful than they’ve been in Ovechkin’s short tenure with the club.

Summer free-agent additions like playmaking center Michael Nylander, minute-munching defenseman Tom Poti, 6-foot-5 pivot Viktor Kozlov and the anticipated NHL debut of top prospect Nicklas Backstrom have transformed the Caps into a legitimate playoff contender. Ovechkin, who has yet to play in the postseason, likes what he sees.

“Well, I think everybody understands we have to move forward,” he said. “That's why we signed a lot of good players, and I think we are playing well and just play our system and the coaches right now feel pretty excited.”

The playoffs are not out of the question. Just ask him.

“Why not? You never know,” Ovechkin says. “We have to win all the games and we have to win and try in every game. And if you win the games, you make the playoffs. If you have a great team and you lose, you don't go to the playoffs.”

The pieces for a run at the postseason are certainly in place. The Capitals went into the summer with a mission to build around the 22-year-old Ovechkin and after considerably upgrading their forward and defense corps, this season’s team is expected to be the best edition of the Capitals Ovechkin has been able to play with. With their new throwback-style RbK uniform systems, you know they’ll be the best dressed, at least.

So far, Ovechkin has been playing with Kozlov at center, a combination he likes very much.

“Well, I feel comfortable with everybody, but with Kozlov, it's like Zubi (Dainius Zubrus) in my first year,” said Ovechkin, who skated this summer with Kozlov, as well as fellow Russian stars like Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Radulov. “He was my center and a big difference when you can run defense in Russian language.”

The language of choice this season in Washington promises to include a lot more derivations for the word “victory.” Ovechkin has been linked to Sidney Crosby for as long as the two have been in the NHL because they represent the brightest stars of the League’s future. So far only Crosby’s Penguins have turned into a playoff team.

Imagine how great it would be to see Ovechkin and Crosby facing each other in the playoffs. That may just happen, thanks to the moves the Capitals made this summer.

But while additions like the 34-year-old Nylander, who scored 162 points the last two years with the Rangers, Kozlov, who potted 25 goals last season, the continued development of 38-goal scorer Alexander Semin, 23, and Tom Poti, 30, eating up quality minutes on the blue

Year Three of the Ovechkin Era could be the most exciting yet.
line will make the Caps a vastly improved team, there is one guy who makes them a contender. And he’s been there for years.

Olaf Kolzig has played his entire NHL career with the Caps since they drafted him in 1989, and the 37-year-old goaltender gives them a chance to win every night.

“Well, he's our leader on the ice, off the ice, and you know, we listen to him because he's good,” Ovechkin said. “Right now he's one of the best players in the League, one of best goalies, and in the locker room he's our leader, too. He tells us what we have to do in practice and what we have to do, and then we go to him. So it's great to have that guy in our locker room.”

Year Three of the Alex Ovechkin Era in Washington could be the best one yet. The high-energy winger loves to score goals, loves to throw his body around and play physical hockey, and he’s hoping to continue to improve his own game. In both of his two years in the NHL, Ovechkin has scored about as many goals as he collects assists, racking up a well-rounded 98 goals and 100 helpers in 163 career games. While he would like to improve his defensive play, Ovechkin is busting to get the season under way and start scoring goals again.

“You know, I have to concentrate about my shots,” he said. “I have lots of shots in the game, but sometimes my shots, I have great moments to shoot, but my shots aren't perfect. I just have to practice my shots more and when I make my shots well, the puck goes to the net. So I think I have to make more shots.”

No matter how many of them are on net this season, Ovechkin is excited that above all else, the Capitals finally have a shot to get to the playoffs. And that’s a shot the young sniper is most concerned with.

“Well, it's a hard division and every team wants to go to the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “The first year (we) had a chance to go to playoffs and we didn't unfortunately. And the next year we did not make the playoffs. I felt like we have a good team and great players, and it's all about us. It doesn't matter what team you play. You just have to go to the ice and play hard and try and win the game.”

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