The buzzer had simply groaned, and Ovechkin and the Capitals had defeated the Lightning in Sport 7 of the Japanese Convention finals. For the primary time in his 13-year profession, Ovechkin would play for the Stanley Cup, an opportunity to finish a championship drought for a metropolis he is poured his coronary heart and soul into for over a 3rd of his 32-year-old life.
“I can not wait to return house and play for a Stanley Cup Closing,” he mentioned. “It may be nuts over there.”
That was 10 days and two video games in the past. With Sport three of the Stanley Cup Closing shifting to Capital One Enviornment on Saturday evening, Ovechkin will lastly get to expertise that second, one which he is desperately yearned to get to after years of arising quick. It was four,623 days in the past Ovechkin debuted on the Capitals’ house ice in Washington. Since then, he is chased a singular dream of main Washington to a championship.
“We’re all excited,” he mentioned Saturday morning, following the Capitals’ skate at Kettler Ice Complicated in Arlington, Va. “Followers excited, entire city excited.
“To be trustworthy with you I simply keep house and don’t attempt to go within the metropolis and have a look at the followers and have a look at the individuals. However as quickly as we go someplace with my household, all people want you luck and all people excited.”
As a result of, for as a lot as Ovechkin has fetishized hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head, Capitals followers haven’t solely additionally longed for that second, however particularly for Ovechkin to be the one who leads them there.
“I do,” Mike Robertson mentioned. “A number of different followers of different groups say that they wish to see Ovechkin get the trophy. He bought a foul rap early in his profession, however he is undoubtedly embraced the entire followers, and change into way more of a personable character.”
Like many characters in an extended story, Ovechkin has gone via arcs. Behind all of it has been his base: He is one of many best goal-scorers in NHL historical past. However that alone is barely a part of Ovechkin’s story. His character has additionally endeared himself to hockey followers. He is been trustworthy, open, and in accordance with Robertson, an athlete town can get behind and root for.
“He was at all times very animated on the ice, and clearly an otherworldly expertise, however I mentioned earlier than we moved, he is merely moved to a different stage so far as interacting with individuals,” Robertson mentioned.
It is one thing Robertson witnessed first hand, or actually extra particularly, first paw.
Whereas Robertson himself is considerably nameless, his pet bulldog, “Ovechkin,” has gained nationwide notoriety. Robertson and spouse Kim lived in Maryland for 17 years earlier than lately shifting to Coronado. However in 2013, with canine in tow, Robertson met the Capitals captain, who fortunately chummed it up with man and man’s finest buddy.
“I simply yelled at him, ‘Ovi, meet Ovi!’ and he came to visit and took the image,” Robertson mentioned.
They met once more extra lately at a Capitals observe, the place Robertson mentioned Ovechkin made a degree to cease to meet up with the doggie buddy.
“And he simply says ‘My buddy!’ and he begins petting him, and hanging out,” Robertson mentioned. “He mentioned, ‘I’ll signal his jersey.’ He was so affected person, and I am simply sitting there considering, ‘he is in all probability signed sufficient jerseys on youngsters and folks, however by no means with a canine who’s shifting.’ I used to be like, ‘Ovi, sit, however not you,’ and he had a superb snort.”
It is the glimpses like these into Alex Ovechkin the particular person which have helped in some methods to vary the narrative surrounding the Russian celebrity.
“All via the playoffs, you simply should — you guys have seen it — you guys have captured it,” head coach Barry Trotz mentioned forward of Sport three. “You’ve captured his emotion. You’ve captured his … even the Holtby save. You simply have a look at his face. He’s so emotional about enjoying for the Cup. It’s one thing he’s at all times needed to do.”
Holtby with a larcenous save, and Ovechkin’s response is priceless 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/Q0JQYw4xOf
— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) Might 31, 2018
How Capitals seasons have ended have largely fallen on Ovechkin’s shoulders. However via all of that, he is been steadfast in his unwavering mission to win a championship, now three victories away from reaching that pinnacle.
“For Alex being the face of the franchise for a very long time, being one of many faces of the league and typically taking undue criticism for a person participant in an actual group sport the place you want all people, he’s taken lots of that,” Trotz mentioned. “He has lots of satisfaction. He desires to ship a Cup to town.”
And if you’re in a market producing on the stage Ovechkin has with such longevity, the focus will at all times be shined on you. And with everybody watching, Ovechkin hasn’t held something again, displaying the identical openness and demeanor that has invited everybody into the Ovechkin Expertise.
“One factor you possibly can see is Alex retains his feelings on his sleeve,” Trotz mentioned. “It’s on the skin. It’s not on the within. You already know precisely what he’s considering.”