Boudreau: Ovechkin “wasn’t benched”

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Bruce Boudreau can’t believe all the attention this whole Alex Ovechkin “benching” story is getting.

Besides, it wasn’t even a benching, said the Washington coach, referring to the end of Tuesday night’s game versus the Ducks when he left on Ovechkin on the bench late in the third period with the Caps trailing by one and the goalie pulled.

“It’s all about accountability, but it was way overblown,” Boudreau told reporters today. “[Ovechkin] wasn’t benched or anything; he just wasn’t chosen to go out the last minute. I’ve done it many different times with many different players. You have a hunch and you go with it. I just thought the other guys were going to score.”

Guess it all depends how you define “benching.” Boudreau obviously defines it as a punitive measure as opposed to simply leaving a player on the bench in favor of other players. Players, it should be noted, who got the tying goal.

So why did the story receive so much play in the media?

“There was no football, there was no basketball, there was nothing else going on,” Boudreau said. “So they made a big deal out of nothing.”

But was it really that ridiculous for the media to react the way it did when you consider what else Boudreau had to say?

“Like I’ve said in the past, 99.9 percent of the time Alex is the first guy I even think of,” he said. “If you look at all my notes, even for that game, when I’ve drawn up a play quite frankly, he’s the one that’s on it. But it’s a different story sometimes at the time that it’s happening, and I just felt that other line was playing so good offensively.”

So 99.9 percent of the time Ovechkin is the first player Boudreau thinks of when the Caps need a goal. And he’s wondering why all the fuss when Ovechkin doesn’t even crack the coach’s top six?

Sorry, not buying it. Boudreau probably did think other players gave his team the best chance to score, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t sending Ovechkin a message at the same time.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.