The Verizon Center crowd was stunned and wounded after the Washington Capitals fell 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7. Plenty of people were just shocked into silence. Barry Trotz had a pretty similar reaction.
The veteran bench boss praised specific elements of the Penguins’ play, but when it came to assessing his own team, the wounds were too raw.
And, yes, that included what he thought of Alex Ovechkin‘s play in Game 7.
“Emotionally, right now, I don’t want to answer that question,” Trotz said. “‘We win and lose as a team.’ That’s probably my best answer right now.”
That assessment raised some eyebrows at first, but before you cook up a bigger controversy, note that he also said basically the same thing when asked about the Capitals’ overall play in the beginning of his presser. You can notice the similarities before the minute mark and then the 3:30 mark of the audio clip here; he even said something along the lines of winning and losing as a team in both instances.
Now, you could start to look into the way Trotz used Ovechkin – and the fact that he didn’t exactly exonerate his captain, either – if you want to cook something up.
Trotz put out Ovechkin for 18:22 time on ice, less than T.J. Oshie (22:38), Nicklas Backstrom (21:58), Justin Williams (19:51), Marcus Johansson (19:24), Andre Burakovsky (19:19) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (19:18). No doubt about it, Ovechkin’s ice time has been a topic of discussion during the postseason.
It’s not outrageous to at least broach the subject, either, after Ovechkin topped Capitals forwards in average ice time during the regular season … though it was amusingly with an average of 18:22 per game.
One way or another, Trotz turned to other forwards more than Ovechkin during key moments, including in this 2-0 loss.
Ovechkin fired four shots on goal, delivered four hits and generated a single takeaway in Game 7, but he was also on the ice for both Penguins goals. That’s a respectable effort, but he too will admit that it wasn’t enough (and that the Capitals’ overall efforts weren’t enough).
And, deep down, Washington likely realizes that Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby are just as crucial (or almost as important) to their hopes of contending as Ovechkin is at this point.
With a ton of free agents likely to part ways with the Capitals – T.J. Oshie possibly included – the Capitals may choose to lean on Ovechkin quite a bit more the next time they’re in a big game.
Assuming Trotz wants to.