By most accounts, Alex Ovechkin wasn't Alex Ovechkin this year.
Sure, he tallied 38 goals this season, six more than he posted in 2010-11. But his assists dipped by 26, and he finished the season with a minus-8 plus-minus.
Just three years ago, he signed the richest contract in league history. The deal suggested that Caps management knew it had the game's top offensive weapon. But things are now different in the NHL and even the Caps front office has taken notice.
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"The game has changed since Alex entered the league and we are looking for him to be a better all-around player," Washington owner Ted Leonsis told The Washington Post in March. "We want him to adapt his game to be productive within the framework of our team, not necessarily in comparison with others in the NHL."
Ovechkin has already played a role in getting a coach fired (Bruce Boudreau) this season due to lackluster play and had a mixup with old friend and Washington defenseman Dennis Wideman at a Caps practice.
If there was ever a season for Ovechkin to just fizzle out, it would be this one. The fact that he will be matched up against Zdeno Chara for the majority of the seven-game set offers even more reason to believe that 2011-12 will not end well for No. 8.