ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin plans to shave before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CSN, USA, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC).
Other than that, he appeared to have his Stanley Cup Playoff game face ready Wednesday.
Ovechkin was all business at the end of Capitals practice. After coach Barry Trotz briefly addressed the players at center ice, Ovechkin headed to one end of the rink with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and began hammering one-timers from his favorite spot in the left circle.
Later, Ovechkin and Shattenkirk switched places with Ovechkin moving to the point to feed Shattenkirk for one-timers. Then, Ovechkin skated to the bench, grabbed his sticks and headed into the locker room.
"We're waiting for this moment for a long time," Ovechkin said. "So everybody is excited and everybody is focusing."
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Ovechkin and the Capitals have been waiting for this since they were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round last season. Now they're Presidents' Trophy winners for the second season in a row and, like zombies from the grave (the theme of their "Next level" playoff T-shirts), they're back and determined not to be stopped this time.
"There's only one goal here; get it done," Ovechkin said. "And I think we're ready for it."
Like many of his teammates of late, Ovechkin did not use the words "Stanley Cup," but that's clearly the "one goal" he referenced. The Capitals have never won it and haven't advanced past the second round of the playoffs since they made their lone Cup Final appearance in 1998.
The clock is ticking for this group. With Shattenkirk, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner and Daniel Winnik slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Dmitry Orlov due significant raises as potential restricted free agents, the Capitals roster will likely look a lot different next season. It might be their last, best chance to win the Stanley Cup together.
"I feel like they've had that sort of mentality for years now and it's good," said Shattenkirk, who was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27. "It's not like the locker room here was kind of saying, 'Oh, the playoffs are coming. I wonder what's going to happen.' We're excited for it. We want to take it and run with it this year and I think everyone is treating it like that.
"They know there's a lot of uncertainty after the year and we have to make sure we cash in on it now."
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Ovechkin, 31, understands that as well as anyone. Through his 12 seasons in the NHL, he's experienced all the disappointments and endured the repeated questions about why the Capitals haven't been able to win.
As captain, he's accepted his share of the blame and probably received more than he's deserved considering how well he's produced in past playoffs with 82 points (41 goals, 41 assists) in 84 games.
But these Capitals have their most complete team since Ovechkin broke into the League in 2005-06. They feature four balanced lines that include 11 forwards who scored at least 10 goals and a defense so deep that Shattenkirk, the prize of the rental market before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, plays on their third pair.
They also have goalie Braden Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a likely finalist again this season.
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"Our mindset is the mistakes what we did [in the past] we learn [from]," Ovechkin said. "This year went fast. We woke up and 82 games [snaps fingers] is done. For different teams, the season is over already. For us, we just want to continue to do what we're doing."
This has been a different season for Ovechkin. Trotz limited his ice time, cutting it from 20:19 per game in 2015-16 to an NHL career-low 18:22 per game this season, in an effort to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Before the season started, owner Ted Leonsis said he told Ovechkin, "It doesn't matter to us if you lead the League in goals," and Ovechkin seemed to take that to heart.
Appearing to pace himself at times, Ovechkin finished with 33 goals, his fewest in a full season since he had 32 in 2010-11 and well below the 50 he scored last season. But his 36 assists were his highest total since he had 53 in 2010-11.
There were some lows, including an NHL career-long 10-game goal drought from Feb. 22 to March 12, but also surges when he demonstrated his full potential. Following the goal drought, he scored six times in seven games and became the third player in NHL history to score 30 goals in each of his first 12 seasons, joining Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky. He finished the season with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his final 15 games.
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"The biggest thing is that he looks fresh, he looks fast and he looks like Alex," Trotz said. "That's a good thing."
Ovechkin also stepped up the physical part of his game late in the regular season, setting the early tone in victories with crunching hits on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski on April 2 and Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev two days later.
"I've tried to get my mind in the right way," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, you can see we had success the whole year again, a good season with team success. ... For me individually, I just want to do better stuff in [the next] few months."