All the great ones eventually recognize this formula. NHL career scoring leader Wayne Gretzky took five years to first taste playoff success.
“The Cup drives me crazy,” said Phoenix Coyotes coach Gretzky, who lifted Lord Stanley's mug on four occasions as a player with the Edmonton Oilers. “That's what we play for and that's what we want. You have to prove to people that you are a winner. The important factor of the whole season was an opportunity to win a championship.”
The struggle was equally arduous for Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux, who waited seven years to wear his first crown. Like Gretzky, Lemieux was showered with individual recognition, all the while burning inside for the chance to be recognized as a champion.
“My goal was to win the Stanley Cup and I didn't worry much about what people thought of my career,” Lemieux said.
Although he’s still an outsider among this group, the thing is, Ovechkin gets it. He understands that to be rated among the all-time greats, he’ll have to achieve greatness when the Stanley Cup is on the line.
“My personal stats, it's personal stats, but right now I think about the team,” Ovechkin said. “We want to win everything. And our goal is not just to be playing, but we want to be the top team in the league.”
In can happen over the course of much heartbreak and discouragement, such as Yzerman endured, or it can come quickly. Ovechkin experienced the postseason for the first time last spring. Lemieux had won a solitary playoff series and owned a meager 11 games of Stanley Cup playing experience for his career when he led the Penguins to back-to-back titles in 1990-91 and 1991-92, turning in Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performances each spring.
Slowly, the Capitals have assembled a talent pool to aid Ovechkin’s cause, drafting Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom and acquiring Fedorov to offer a veteran winning presence.
“Right now, we have a great chance to move forward,” Ovechkin said, while realizing the road to a title is one that’s paved with potholes and adversity.
“It's hard work here, and nobody gives you easy ways,” he said. “You have to fight. You have to live for this, you know.”
It’s what makes a player a living legend, after all.
Live Extra: After edging the Penguins in double overtime in Game 3, the Senators look to level their Eastern Conference semifinal at 2-2 tonight.
PHT: The Canucks parted company with head coach Alain Vigneault and two assistants, according to a report.
Alexander the Great
Take a look at Capitals star and two-time MVP Alexander Ovechkin
Check out photos from the Kings' Stanley Cup victory parade in LA.
Stanley Cup playoffs
Check out photos from the NHL postseason action.
Stanley Cup winners
A look at the teams that have earned the right to hoist Lord Stanley's prize since 1965.
Some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities take in NHL games.
Check out the ice girls from around the National Hockey League.
Ask the NHL Expert: Kevin Dupont