Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin brushes off benching: “It doesn’t matter how many minutes I play”

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With controversy swirling above, Alex Ovechkin said all the right things.

“It doesn’t matter how many minutes I play,” Washington’s captain said the day after playing 1:58 in the third period of a 2-1 win over Boston. “Of course I want to be there, but it’s [head coach Dale Hunter’s] decision.”

And with that, the story of the Great Eight’s benching was dead.

For now.

Thing is, the optics of this latest incident will probably last a while. Ovechkin is Washington’s captain, highest-paid and most talented player. He’s the team leader and the face of the franchise, which makes the following two facts so stunning:

1) In the last 14 minutes of Washington’s biggest game of the year, Ovechkin played 15 seconds.

2) No Capital played less in the third period.

That said, Washington players were quick to contextualize those two stats.

“Just because he’s not on the ice, doesn’t mean he’s not a big part of the team. He’s paid to score goals. He’s here to score goals, and make sure we’re in games and giving ourselves a chance to win games,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “If we were down a goal, he’d be the guy that would probably log the most amount of ice time.

“But being a game where you have a one-goal lead, they have a pretty good push, you want your defensive guys out, the guys who are usually on the penalty kill, the shutdown line – and he understands that.”

Head coach Dale Hunter said his decision was all about line matching and putting out shot-blockers.

“You want your best players blocking shots, but your offensive guys, but you don’t want them breaking a foot, either,” he explained.

Problem is, that theory falls a little flat.

Hunter gave Alex Semin (3:03) and Marcus Johansson (3:52) more ice than Ovi in the third, and neither of them are Dikembe Mutombo — they’ve combined for four blocks in four games.

The reality is that Hunter’s explanation for benching Ovechkin is the same explanation he gave for parking him versus Philadelphia back in March. Both instances occurred after an Ovechkin turnover resulted in a goal against, and both were masked under the notion of “matching lines”.

The question is: Will it have any long-lasting effect? Judging by Ovechkin’s comments, you’d have to say….no.

“I understand it. I accept it — it doesn’t matter if I’m going to play 10 seconds or 5 seconds,” he said. “Most important thing is team result.”

Scrivens signs in KHL with Dinamo Minsk

Montreal Canadiens' Devante Smith-Pelly , center,and Brendan Gallagher, left, celebrate their victory over the Carolina Hurricanes with goalie Ben Scrivens at an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Ben Scrivens is off to Belarus. The 29-year-old goalie has reportedly signed with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

Scrivens made 14 starts for the Montreal Canadiens in 2015-16, failing to really take advantage of his opportunity with the Habs and finishing 5-8-0 with a .906 save percentage.

In total, Scrivens made 144 appearances (130 starts) in NHL games, his best season coming in 2013-14, which he split between Los Angeles and Edmonton. The Oilers gave up a third-round draft pick to get him. They eventually acquired Zack Kassian when they dealt him away.

Related: Maple Leafs reportedly close to signing Jhonas Enroth

Small world: Flames prospect Phillips drawing comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau

Johnny Gaudreau
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Johnny Gaudreau has proven that smaller players with exceptional talent can excel in the National Hockey League.

In only two full seasons with the Calgary Flames after a career at Boston College, the five-foot-nine-inch tall Gaudreau has emerged as an offensive dynamo, finishing tied with Blake Wheeler and Joe Pavelski with 78 points last season. Only five players in the entire league had more points.

He could also act as a source of inspiration for Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, taken in the sixth round, 166th overall, by Calgary in last month’s NHL Draft.

Phillips is actually smaller than Gaudreau. He’s currently listed at five-foot-six-inches tall and 137 pounds. Yes. That’s 137 pounds.

Despite the lack of size, Phillips had 37 goals and 76 points in 72 games with the Victoria Royals in the rugged Western Hockey League.

“My first good look at him was at the World Juniors when he won gold [in 2012 with the United States],” said Phillips, as per NHL.com. “Every game I watched, he lit it up. Then I found out he was a Flames prospect. My eyes blew open there. I’ve been glued to his games ever since.

“I just like watching his focus. When he has the puck, I watch how creative he is. He doesn’t shy away from making the bold play with the puck that if it works, it’s high reward. Not just that, but his focus on the ice, from what I hear around the rink, is pretty special. I like watching his demeanor on the ice and how he approaches it all.”

Because of their respective but similar statures, Phillips has already garnered comparisons to Gaudreau, who went to the Flames in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

“Goalies and forwards are kind of going in opposite directions but the game has changed a lot in the past 10 years with the new rules,” said Phillips, as per Global News. 

“And it’s a faster pace of play and there’s more and more space for the small player.”

Related: Flames ‘have every confidence’ they’ll be able to re-sign Gaudreau, Monahan

Report: Maple Leafs closing in on deal with Jhonas Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs held on to Garret Sparks, signing him earlier this month to a two-way contract.

But they may not be done there, as they look to find someone to fill the role of back-up to Frederik Andersen.

On Sunday, a report from Expressen in Sweden — and put through Google Translate — began circulating that the Leafs are closing in on a deal with free agent goalie Jhonas Enroth, who turned 28 years old last month.

It’s one report and the team has not confirmed or announced anything. But it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few days.

Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last season with the L.A. Kings, appearing in only 16 games behind starter Jonathan Quick.

Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the Kings, his playing time was a source of contention, however, because Enroth seemed to be under the impression he would play more than he did in L.A.

The back-up position in Toronto became available when the Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks.

Related: UFA of the Day: Jhonas Enroth

Providence College product Schaller saw opportunity to play with Bruins, but challenges lie ahead

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 15:  Tim Schaller #59 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center on January 15, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)
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After spending the last three seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization, Tim Schaller wasn’t going to resist the opportunity to sign with the Boston Bruins.

A product of Providence College, the now 25-year-old Schaller, a center who provides size up the middle at six-foot-two-inches and 219 pounds, signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level with the Bruins as a free agent at the beginning of July.

“We had probably about 10-12 teams calling on one day,” Schaller told the Boston Globe.

“About halfway through the phone calls, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins called. At that moment, I almost told my agent, ‘Why take another phone call? Why not just say yes to the Bruins right away?’ It’s a good opportunity to have to play in Boston. All the numbers worked out perfectly to where it was impossible to say no to them.”

The move helped to provide depth up the middle for the Bruins.

Schaller has put up decent numbers in the minors, with 43 points in 65 games with the Rochester Americans in the 2014-15 season. In 35 NHL games with Buffalo, he had two goals and five points.

However, earning a spot on the Bruins roster could be difficult.

They have centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who had off-season surgery, Ryan Spooner and the additions of Riley Nash and David Backes as free agents.

Backes can play wing in addition to center.

“Boston was a good fit,” said Schaller. “We think I’m better than the prospects, so we thought it was a good fit. Hopefully I can beat out a bunch of guys for a job.”