ARLINGTON, V.A. — Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin wears a smile and points at the camera as he takes the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Sunday for the team’s first practice of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His grin remains as he takes the podium for media day, describing the postseason as a different beast while looking ahead to the team’s first-round series against the No. 1 Florida Panthers.
The Great 8, who missed the final three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, said that he’s feeling good and could have played if he had to. This marks Ovechkin’s 14th career postseason appearance, and he has never missed a playoff game due to injury. And though he wouldn’t reveal whether or not he will lace ’em up for Game 1, it looks like he will be ready to go.
“We knew we make playoffs, and we just decided to take a rest,” Ovechkin said, adding, “It’s going to be total different games than the regular season, obviously.”
Ovechkin knows that Washington is in for a tough go-of-it against Florida, who won the Presidents’ Trophy and has become a legitimate contender and Cup favorite this season thanks to Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and more, along with new additions like Claude Giroux.
“They are very solid group of guys, best team in the regular season, but in playoffs, it’s going to be different,” Ovechkin noted. “It’s going to be different mindset, it’s going to be different speed, it’s going to be different battle level.”
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When it comes to the keys to success against the Panthers, Ovechkin said the Capitals can’t overthink things and that the team shouldn’t be caught off guard. Washington went 1-1-1 against Florida this season, with all of those games coming back in November. Ovechkin had four goals and two assists, including a hat trick, in those outings.
“We just have to play simple. I think simple, hard. I think all the teams are going to play basically the same game, there aren’t going to be any surprises out there,” Ovechkin said, adding, “I think we’re going to look at the highlights and figure out how to score goals… they’re a very good team, and it’s going to be a very interesting battle for us.”
Looking at the team’s final showings, Ovechkin noted that it was far from an ideal note to end on. The Capitals dropped four straight games to close out the regular season and went 0-3-0 without the Great 8 in the lineup.
“Obviously, it was not good result… we could maybe have moved up a little bit in the standings, but it is what it is. Right now, it’s over. Nothing you can do. We just have to figure out how we’re going to play against the Presidents’ Trophy winner.
Going forward, though, Ovechkin said the Capitals will be expected to hold themselves to a high standard.
“Since the beginning, the beginning of the year, it doesn’t matter. We have to take two steps, right?” Ovechkin said. “The first step is making the playoffs and then win the Cup. So we just have to take no excuses.”