Ovechkin Seems on Permanent Slide

Ovechkin Seems on Permanent Slide

Today, I'll sing the blues for Alex Ovechkin.

Let's say this right off the top: Alex Ovechkin has been one of my favorite players ever. Ever. That's going back some, back to the Original Six days of Bobby Hull, who similarly lit up arenas with unstoppable rushes down the ice. But the Alex Ovechkin I watched on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden -- in the Capitals' 2-1 loss to the Rangers -- suffered from something of a power shortage and didn't bear much resemblance to the explosive, creative, entertaining -- and, yes -- joyous winger who terrorized the NHL for the first five seasons of his career. I wish he did.

Now I'll add this qualification: That's an observation from only one game and anyone can have an off night. Still, Ovechkin has had a hell of a lot more off nights this season and in the past two than he did his first five, which even his most ferocious supporters can't deny. After averaging almost 56 goals per season, he's had consecutive campaigns of 32 and 38. This year, he ranks fourth on the Caps in scoring, with five goals and 10 points, and while that's good, it's not Ovie-like. He's only 27, supposedly entering the peak of a professional athlete's career but -- jeez, I hate writing this --- it seems as if he's already peaked.

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