Ted Leonsis vividly remembers the moment when he and Alex Ovechkin
boarded his private jet after the new Russian Rocket collected four trophies at last June's NHL Awards Show.
"He had so many awards we had to kick someone off my plane to fit the awards," the Capitals' Chairman and majority owner said Tuesday night in the winning dressing room after a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers
in game 7. "We were sitting there and he said, 'OK, I've won all the awards, I get it, but they can have them all back, I want to win a Cup. I don't care if I score 10 goals if we win a Cup.'"
Ovechkin scored three goals and finished with seven points against the Rangers and the Capitals are only one step closer to winning a Stanley Cup, but what he showed in this series is an ability to adapt and play a role, albeit a big one.
More than anything, that proves how much Ovechkin has grown into a leader in his fourth NHL season and his second playoff run.
"You have to be able to adapt and adjust in the playoffs," General Manager George McPhee
said. "In baseball they call it 'little ball,' you just have to find a way to get on base and don't take the big cuts. Alex learned to dump it in instead of trying to go one-on-one all the time. He's really effective at that, but there are times when you just have to get it in and he did it. Alex was one of those guys that did it in the third."
Ovechkin, known primarily as a goal-scorer, didn't score a truly meaningful goal in the series (unless you count the one he scored in the third period of Game 4, but the Capitals still lost 2-1), but he was without question still the best player on the ice.
He was a plus-5, which tied him for second in the League in the first round. He had 49 shots on goal (first overall), 26 hits (third) and averaged 22:56 of ice time per game, which was third among forwards.
"You need guys to do what they can do (in the playoffs), but sometimes you have to change your role to benefit the team," defenseman Mike Green
said. "Ovie did that."
And the Capitals still won, which should actually be kind of scary for the Pittsburgh Penguins
, who open the conference semifinal at Verizon Center against Ovechkin and the Caps on Saturday afternoon.
Including Ovechkin, 10 different Capitals scored at least one goal against the Rangers, including a League-best five from Alexander Semin
and a combined four from defensemen Tom Poti
, Milan Jurcina
and Mike Green
"He's trying very, very hard, that's what I noticed," Sergei Fedorov
said of Ovechkin. "He really wants to win, doesn't matter how. If he had to go through the boards I think he would."
Like a true pro, a true veteran, Ovechkin tried to immediately turn the page to the next series as he spoke in front of his locker Tuesday night. He didn't yet know the Caps were going to play Pittsburgh, but he was ready to move on.
"It's done, you know," Ovechkin said. "We look forward to the next game, the next round. It's going to be another second round war. We have to realize that we have to be quiet, keep our emotions calm to keep our energy for the next round.
"It's all about us right now," he added. "It's all about what we do and it's all about how we're going to keep our emotions. Right now we have to go home, go to sleep, relax and wake up and start to realize we moved forward, we didn't go home. We're still going."
They're still going not because Ovechkin dominated the box score, but because he did everything else.
"You never know what is going to happen," Ovechkin said.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com