Superstar Alex Ovechkin and his Caps zeroed in on NHL playoff drive

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One would think being the first 60-goal scorer in the NHL in 12 years would bring a little more excitement out of Alex Ovechkin, but the Washington Capitals superstar says he's too preoccupied with his team's playoff chase right now.

"The last two years at this time we were thinking about vacation and what we going to do in the summer," Ovechkin said Monday on an NHL conference call. "We weren't thinking about the playoffs. Right now, we have a great chance to move forward.

"My personal stats are my personal stats but right now I'm just thinking about the team."

Trying to beat out fellow Russian star Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring league has been a fantastic race to follow. But the Art Ross Trophy can wait. So can the Hart Trophy and the Rocket Richard Trophy for that matter. There will be time after the season to worry about those possible pieces of hardware.

"Right now, I don't care about Malkin, I don't care about Pittsburgh, I don't care about different teams," said Ovechkin. "I care about my team and myself. I want to help my team win games."

Winning games is just what his Caps have been doing lately, taking 10 out of a possible 12 points in their last six outings to creep within two points of the eighth and final spot held by the Boston Bruins.

"Anything can happen," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "By hook or by crook, it doesn't matter how we get in or what position we get in - we just want to get in."

The Caps have six games left - two each against divisional opponents Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida. They visit the Hurricanes on Tuesday night, the fourth stop of their current six-game road trip (2-1-0).

Just two weeks ago, it appeared they were dead in the water after last-minute, heart-breaking defeats to Boston and Pittsburgh in the same weekend. But they picked themselves off the mat to stay in the race.

"They're such a great, resilient group," Boudreau said of his players. "I think they were more angry than they were disappointed (after the March 8-9 losses).

"We had a couple of days to recoup after that, which was great, it gave us a chance to get everything else going again. After that, we had a four-game win streak."

Boudreau deserves credit as well after taking over for the fired Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22. The Caps have gone 31-17-7 under his guidance. When he took over, Boudreau told his players they could compete for the Stanley Cup this season, never mind just make the playoffs.

"If you don't shoot for the moon, to me you're not shooting high enough," said Boudreau. "I wanted them to believe they're capable of doing it. ...

"Even though people outside our dressing room firmly believe if we made the playoffs it would be a great accomplishment, our goal is to win the Stanley Cup like anybody else," added Boudreau. "We look at Edmonton a couple of years ago just squeaking in as the eighth team as going to the final and going seven games. I don't think it's that far-fetched a goal."

Boudreau's message when he took over immediately hit home with the players.

"The team started to believe in each other and win games and you see the results," said Ovechkin. "I think nobody wants to play against us."



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