Aside from the story of how Tomas Plekanec actually backed up his big
words — something you don’t see everyday in professional sports — the
story this morning is surrounding Alex Ovechkin and his zero shots on
The Capitals were foiled by much more than just Ovechkin
being a non-factor for much of the game, but for their captain — and
someone who is supposedly Hart Trophy worthy — to disappear for long
stretches has to be concerning. It’s much more so than just looking at
the numbers and determining that he didn’t have a good game; anyone
watching could see that Ovechkin had a tough time being his normally
high-energy, dominant self.
Bruce Boudreau pulled no punches,
saying after the game “He didn’t play good. The gapped on real well on
him but I don’t think Alex played very well.”
So what was it? Was
Ovechkin just not good, or did the Canadiens just do one heck of a job
taking away the Capitals’ best player?
Jaroslav Spacek is happy
with how his team played Ovechkin, but had nothing but praise for the
man everyone is asking about today. From
Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Blog:
“He was playing good,” Spacek said. “His shots didn’t
that’s the problem, but I think we did a great job against their first
line all night long. We didn’t give them too much space. If he will be
shooting from the blue line, he’s probably not that effective. And we
had the guys to step up on him all the time. So when you see the third
guy, fourth guy coming back, that’s even better for our defensemen.”
worth noting that Ovechkin wasn’t exactly shotless. He had five blocked
shots and three that missed the net, the most total attempts on the
team aside from Mike Knuble and Alex Semin.
That being said,
there’s no doubt that something just isn’t right. He had the second most
ice time on the team last night (26:26), but it certainly didn’t seem
like he was on the ice for that amount of time while watching the game.
He wasn’t pushing the play, wasn’t aggressively attacking the defense up
the wing like we’ve seen time and time again, and instead seemed intent
on trying to continuously take the puck across the slot as he looked
for an opening. There never was one.
Is Ovechkin hurt, or is this
something mental? He just hasn’t been the same since the Olympics
disappointment, and you have to wonder if the pressure is starting to
get to him. He’s no longer the free wheeling, aggressive, fun-loving
hockey player that has dominated so many games. He was calm, quiet and a
bit off during practice leading up to last night’s game, stating he was
saving his emotions for the game; that emotional side of him never
This isn’t to pin the loss on Ovechkin; far from it. As
David Getz of Japers’ Rink noted last night, Ovechkin, Semin and Mike
Green all had off nights with just eight shots on goal between the
three. The Capitals will need the entire team to step up, but in the end
it’s Ovechkin that can make the difference.
He’s supposedly the
best player in the NHL, one who has the ability to completely take over a
game. If the Capitals are to avoid one hell of an upset, they’ll need
him to find that emotional core that he’s used all season long.