on October 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Caps’ Boudreau thinks Ovechkin’s best is yet to come

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau believes he has yet to see the best of two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin.

“He can get a lot better and I think he will,” Boudreau told Reuters. “Offensively, I don’t know. But we need to see him do it both offensively and defensively.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in his game. And that’s something because he’s really, really good right now.”

If it is possible that Ovechkin can indeed sharpen his game, the Capitals could be poised to win their first Stanley Cup championship since joining the league in 1974.

The Southeast Conference champion Capitals open their season on the road Thursday against the Boston Bruins, who had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis believes the 24-year-old Ovechkin needs to win the title to secure his position as one of the NHL’s top all-time players.

“Alex has won all of these individual awards,” said Leonsis. “He and I have had many conversations. I told him for honest immortality, you have to win a Stanley Cup.

“Because he gets that and because he’s internalized that, that permeates everything. He’s driven. And the team is driven that that is what we have to do.”

When Ovechkin arrived in Washington in 2005 the Capitals were little more than an afterthought. But the team’s fans have now embraced the club, selling out the upcoming season in the 18,277-seat Verizon Center.

“It’s definitely a hockey town now. Everywhere we go we see people wearing Caps jerseys and hats,” said Ovechkin, the league’s leading goal-scorer last season.

“When I was here my first year, there were a couple thousand people in the stands. Right now, nobody can get a ticket. It’s like Canada. It’s exciting.” added Ovechkin, who in 2008 signed a 13-year contract extension worth $124 million

Washington added right wing Mike Knuble and center Brendan Morrison during the offseason but will need consistent goaltending from Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov to advance deep into the playoffs.

The Capitals lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who went on to win the title. Washington took the Penguins to a seven-game series before falling.

“There’s no more discussion about whether this is a hockey town. It is,” said Leonsis. “Our TV ratings are through the roof, our merchandise sales are through the roof, our attendance is through the roof.

“At the same time, it’s fragile. We have to be very humble and hungry. I walk around the office and tell people, ‘Don’t get cocky, we haven’t done anything yet.’ We still have to win a Stanley Cup.”

(Editing by Alison Wildey)