Alex Ovechkin - NHL's True Golden Knight

Alex Ovechkin: NHL’s True Golden Knight

By Cole Querry

After 13 seasons in the NHL that saw him win the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie, the Maurice Richard Trophy seven times, the Art Ross Trophy once as the league’s leading point scorer in 2007-08, the Hart Trophy thrice, Alex Ovechkin won the elusive Lord Stanley’s Cup (and Conn Smythe Trophy as league’s playoff MVP) this season against the Vegas Golden Knights.

It was during this same time last year where so-called pundits and people whom actually make a living writing about hockey surmised that the, “window was closing” for the Capitals. The Caps had lost to the Penguins for the second straight year in 2017-18 as the Penguins would go on to win the Stanley Cup two times in a row further establishing Crosby’s legacy as one of the true greats this game is witnessing today.

In addition to the sour ending in the 2016-17 playoffs, the Caps let Justin Williams sign with the Carolina Hurricanes via free agency, they let Kevin Shattenkirk signed with the Blue shirts that same offseason, and watched defenseman Nate Schmidt be picked up by the Vegas Golden Knights in the most recent expansion draft.

Furthermore, General Manager Brain MacLellan handed out huge contracts to TJ Oshie (eight years/$46 million) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (eight year/$62.4 million) within a few weeks of each other despite the fact that neither played major roles in helping Ovechkin and the Capitals beat the Penguins that year.

Now, Ovechkin, along with the others in the supporting cast who had never hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup (defenseman Brooks Orpik was the only Washington Capitals player to have won it and did so with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09) can tell the hockey world to shut the fuck up and acknowledge that he is, not only is he one of, if not, the best goal scorer to have ever played the game, but one of the best players of all time and that the sport is better because he won.

Ovechkin’s Early Career and the Caps Drafting Russian

In 2004, Ovechkin became the second Russian-born player to ever be selected with the first overall choice in the NHL draft. Former Capitals General Manager George Mcphee supposedly took more than a dozen calls with trade inquiries in hopes to land the talented Russian winger, but stuck to his guns and drafted Ovechkin because his talents spoke louder than any trivial contract disputes the NHL and Gary Bettman may have had with the Kontinental Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation at the time.

Ovechkin was so highly touted that he was drafted before Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin that year. Even though the Russian superstar is 32 years old and has gray hair now, the draft pick has not steered the franchise in the wrong direction at any point over the last 13 years.

Ovechkin’s Impact on Washington D.C. and the NHL

As a member of the Washington Capitals, Ovechkin has been an NHL all-star seven times, has taken the Capitals to the Stanley Cup playoffs 10 out of the 13 seasons he has been there, and represented his country in the Winter Olympics three times before being forced to not participate in 2018. He did, however, take the time to write about why he loved playing in the Olympics and represented his country in a personal message he released through the Washington Capitals.

“I wanted to make this statement so that my words are clear and nobody misunderstands what I am saying. The Olympics are in my blood and everybody knows how much I love my country…We should not have to be in position to make this choice,” he stated.

He goes on to talk about his personal history with the world games, his chance to carry the Olympic flame for Russia, and his love for his teammates and his ultimate goal of wanting to bring the cup to Washington D.C.. He is a star on the ice as he represents his team and country, but also performs charitable work that is ubiquitous to the NHL and the work the league does.

Publicly, Ovechkin has been everything the Washington Capitals hoped for when drafting him as the franchise player in 2004. In addition to the slew of hardware he has at his house, Ovechkin has done work off the ice to promote the sport and be a positive ambassador for the league.

In a 2014 article done by Russian Machine Never Breaks, the online media site states that Ovechkin helped out seven different orphanages in Russia providing children with brand new hockey equipment in order for them to have some solace in what otherwise is a tumultuous experience.

He has participated in the Make-A-Wish program, takes time to play with DC youth hockey squads, had asked to be picked last in an All-Star game in order to donate a car to a young fan with Down Syndrome and her young girl’s hockey program, Nova Cool Cats of Virginia, and took part in a sushi date with Washington Capitals fan, Ann Schaub.

On top of all that, he even offered to dress up and attend a party as Darth Vader for charity even though he didn’t use the correct lightsaber.

Darth Ovechkin

Plus, he has done great work (albeit shitty acting) in commercials for Papa-John’s, ESPN, and Eastern Motors.

On-Ice Accolades and Hoisting the Cup

Ovechkin has eclipsed the 50-goal mark seven times in his career with a high of 65 goals in 2007-08. He has broken 100-point season four times and has over 100 game-winning goals in his career. In 1,003 games played, the “Great Eight” has scored 1,122 points with a rate of 1.12 PPG throughout the time.

He also brings physicality to the game. On top of having over 600 goals in his illustrious career, the strong skating forward also has over 2,200 hits. And his hits are not like Nicklas Lidstöm’s light hippers or Matt Cooke’s dirty ass cheap shots, Ovechkin skates with intensity and has a large frame that he is not afraid to throw around.

But, it his goal scoring that stands out the most and is second to none. Unlike Brett Hull or Luc Robitaille who simply knew where to be, or Teemu Selanne who had slick hands as a fast skater, Ovechkin has a shot so powerful the entire Capital’s power play stratagem revolved around him until the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals where Associate Coach Todd Reirden utilized defenseman John Carlson’s right-handed blast to change it up against the Golden Knights. Ovechkin still scored on the power play in the cup-clinching game with a cross seem pass by Nicklas Bäckstöm.

And even though his statistics speak for themselves, is not just the numbers, the trophies, or even the accruing hit totals that attract hockey fans worldwide and sells tickets, it is the energy that he brings to the game and the tenacity to score goals in any way possible.

Highlights: Ovechkin goal against Pheonix Coyotes in 2006 and Ovechkin’s goal against Montreal in 2009.

Phoenix Coyotes

Montreal Canadiens

You saw that type of energy when Ovechkin was handed the Stanely Cup for the first time this summer. He did not seemed too concerned with making sure he was photo-ready with Bettman, he was yelling out of excitement knowing that he further planted his place as one of the all-time greats this sport has ever seen.

Lastly, the NHL Needed the Capitals to Win

To have the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season would have been disastrous for both the NHL and Vegas bookies alike. Yes, they had an incredible first year and yes, Vegas General Manager and former Washington Caps GM George McPhee drafted the greatest team $500 million could buy.

But, what if they did? What about the Blues’ fans that have to wait another year after having already gone almost 50 years without winning a cup? What about the Senators’ fans that saw their team’s season get pummeled with a downward off-ice publicity spiral and fail to make the playoffs after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals the year before? What about Oilers’ fans who have to continue watching the same shit-show year after year despite having a superstar like Connor McDavid on their team?

Would you or anyone else associated with the NHL in some capacity want a team that has a Medieval Times/renaissance fair-themed pre-game show and Mindfreak cranking the horn before every single game win the Stanley Cup their first year? Would anyone who has followed the game longer than the T-Mobile Arena has been around want the Golden Knights to win? Really?

Also, in the salary cap era, the NHL has tried to promote the idea that there is parity in the league even though only four different teams have won the Stanley Cup since 2009 and there are now 31 teams in the NHL. However, the Washington Capitals (specifically Ovechkin) deserved to win the cup given how long they have been in contention and satiate this elusive poetic justice in order to silence those sipping on that Haterade.

Lastly, D.C. needed the Capitals to win. In the contentious political climate the United States is enduring under President Donald Trump that have divisively split up so many Americans, now fans of all political ideals and or social motives can cheer for one common thing and that is Ovechkin and the Capitals touring the town with the Stanley Cup.

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