Alexander Ovechkin, couldn’t stop pumping his fists, couldn’t stop shouting, ‘‘Yeah!’’ As he waited to take the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, he only could put his hands on top of his head and say, ‘‘Oh, my God.’’
Watching the proceedings last June in Las Vegas, where the Capitals were celebrating the first Cup victory in team history, a Blackhawks star who had been in Ovechkin’s skates a time or three was pleased.
‘‘I was happy for him,’’ Patrick Kane said. ‘‘I was rooting for him. I don’t know if we all were, but I was rooting for him. He’s such a great player.’’
The Hawks will see Ovechkin and the defending champion Capitals on Wednesday in the first game of a three-game road trip that also will take them to Tampa, Florida, where expectations are Presidents’ Trophy-high. Through the end of December, the Hawks’ schedule shapes up as nothing less than brutal — a blur of opponents seemingly bound for the playoffs.
Coming off a successful homestand — five points in three games — that pumped life into the team, the Hawks are confident.
‘‘We’re playing really well, everyone together,’’ goalie Corey Crawford said. ‘‘We’re feeding off each other, communicating out there. Especially our ‘D’ zone guys know what’s going on, and it shows.’’
It’s the play in the offensive zone that probably is of more concern as the Hawks enter a stretch of the season that will go a long way toward defining them, good or bad.
One of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, the Hawks are desperate for production from anyone outside of Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad, who have scored roughly two-thirds of their goals.
No other forward on the team has scored more than twice. And Brent Seabrook, who has three goals, is the only defenseman with more than one. Veteran Duncan Keith has zero in 32 shots on goal. Rookie Henri Jokiharju is 0-for-47.
‘‘We’re definitely hurting for offense right now, and that’s from top to bottom [that] the production has gone down,’’ said Kane, who leads the Hawks with 12 goals and 25 points. ‘‘You take it upon yourself as a player that’s supposed to score and produce, be able to do that every night. It would be nice to be able to do that more often.’’
Coach Jeremy Colliton has loaded up his top line with Kane, Toews and Saad in hopes they’ll lead the way. Philosophically, it’s in line with what a number of teams around the league are doing.
‘‘If we play them together, they’ve got to produce,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘Sometimes when you spread them out, no one produces. By loading them up, it puts some pressure on them. But hopefully they play so well, it doesn’t matter who has the puck. They’re making plays, they break through anyway, no matter who they’re playing against.’’
It’s certainly a big ask, and it’ll be in sharp contrast to the opposition in the first two games of this trip. The Capitals’ scoring punch is spread out more traditionally, with defenseman John Carlson on fire as an added offensive weapon. The Lightning’s top six scorers make up their top two lines, but even their third and fourth lines are nothing to sneeze at offensively.
For the Hawks’ few producers, the reality of the moment can be summed up in five words: Get it going or goodnight.
‘‘It’d be nice to have contributions across the board, [but] I think we’ve been playing pretty well,’’ Kane said. ‘‘I think it’s a matter of time before we get a couple of bounces here or there, whether it’s a power play or guys getting loose pucks around the net, deflections, things like that. Just a matter of time.’’