Rangers stifling Alex Ovechkin on way to 1st-round advantage over Capitals

Alex Ovechkin Rangers
Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin shoots during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

There is shutting down an opposing player and then there is what the New York Rangers have done to Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin over the first two games of their first-round playoff series. 

Ovechkin is one of the purest snipers hockey has ever seen — one who is never shy to shoot the puck. Over an illustrious 19-year career, he has averaged over 4.5 shots per game, including a 13-year stretch in which he led the NHL in shots 11 times.

Yet in the first two games of the first-round series against the Rangers, Ovechkin has been held to just one shot across 120 minutes play while the Blueshirts jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.

Ovechkin’s slow start heaps on the concern for a team that was already considerable underdogs against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers.

“I thought the first two games, he looks a little bit off,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said following the Capitals 4-3 Game 2 loss to New York on Tuesday night. “He’s struggling. It’s hard, it’s the playoffs on the road. He’s getting a tough matchup but it’s two games… There’s two things that I notice when he’s struggling — he’s not getting [chances]. He should on a nightly basis get four or five looks, whether they go in or not.

“He’s not getting those looks. Whether that’s a product of his matchups or a product of the line combinations, we’ve got to find a way to get him in spots where it’s him and [Rangers goalie Igor] Shesterkin.”

The Rangers’ defense has plenty to do with that. They have been throwing practically everything possible at the legendary goal scorer’s face, which was the gameplan heading into the series, especially because the Capitals do not possess much depth.

“He’s a player that can make a difference in a game,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette, who coached Ovechkin from 2020-2023, said. “We’re mindful of that and do our best to check him.”

Puck drop for Game 3 is on Friday night (7 p.m. ET) down in D.C.

For more on the New York Rangers, visit AMNY.com