Capitals Don’t Expect Ovechkin To Carry Offense Going Forward: ‘At 38, It’s Probably Not Fair’

The Capitals captain sits 42 goals away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record, but Washington wants its offense to have more depth than just No. 8.

Capitals re-sign Alex Ovechkin to $47.5M, 5-year contract | BRProud.com

ARLINGTON, V.A. — The Washington Capitals came face-to-face with a tough reality in the first half of the season, as they watched captain Alex Ovechkin struggle to find twine: at 38 years old and with two years left on his deal, he may not be able to maintain the same scoring rate he has over 19 monumental seasons.

Though he picked up the pace in the second half to hit 30 goals once again and lead the Capitals back to the playoffs, he was held scoreless in the team’s first-round sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers as he appeared to run out of gas.

“That was a lot. The second half of the year and especially the last, call it two weeks, where every game felt like the life or death of our team… I feel like that took a lot out of him physically and mentally,” head coach Spencer Carbery admitted.

Watching all of that unfold, general manager Brian MacLellan recognized and admitted the obvious, but not necessarily spoken: you can’t lean on only Alex Ovechkin.

“I don’t think it’s fair to — he’s 38 years old. We can’t come in and say he’s got to carry us or he’s got to get 50 goals,” MacLellan said matter-of-factly.

Washington’s offense took a significant hit over the course of the season with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha all departing. The team averaged just 2.63 goals per game, the fifth-least in the NHL, while the power play also struggled to find consistency.

All the while, Ovechkin, who turns 39 in September, is chasing down Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record and sits 42 goals away from 895. Though he admits that it’s possible to reach if he stays healthy, he added that it’s a long way away.

Alex Ovechkin wants to end pro hockey career with KHL's Dynamo Moscow

MacLellan agreed and added that the Capitals’ offense needs more dimension beyond Ovechkin’s pursuit of 99, especially as he gets older.

“I think he’s going to have times where it looks like he still has it and he’s playing well and he’s moving well and he’s scoring, and there’s going to be lulls in his game. The schedule’s going to grind on a 38-year-old,” MacLellan said. “We’re travelling a lot, playing every second night, two in threes. It’s hard for older players to play at a high level of consistency. It’s just not set up for that physically and mentally.”

That being said, MacLellan said the plan for Washington is to add some more help in the offseason and look to the youth in the organization to step up and pick up some more responsibility on the forecheck.

“There’s a lot of pressure on him,” MacLellan said of Ovechkin. “(Him being) expected to carry us offensively at 38 is probably not fair,” he said, adding, “That’s just the circumstance we’re in, and we’re going to look to get some help here, too, if we can find it.”

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