What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
When Barry Trotz took over the coaching reigns in Washington many questioned whether he’d be able to get the most out of his star captain Alex Ovechkin.
The 29-year-old was coming off a season in which he recorded a career-worst minus-35 rating as Washington missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Following a two-point performance in the Caps’ Game 1 victory over the New York Rangers, Trotz revealed part of the reason Ovechkin has had a bounce back year.
It started with a lengthy conversation in Las Vegas last year at the NHL Awards.
“Really, what I told him is that I wanted him to be more active,” Trotz said per CSNWashington.com. “I thought he had too much glide in his game. When I was in the other conference we talked about how he wasn’t skating and how easy he is to cover.”
It’s not the first time Trotz has spoken openly about Ovechkin needing to tweak his game. Soon after taking the coaching job in Washington the 52-year-old spoke about Ovechkin needing to “grow his game”.
“I think if he gets a little less glide in his game that he’ll be as dynamic and hard to handle as he ever was,” Trotz said in June.
Boy was Trotz right.
Ovechkin scored a league-leading 53 goals in the regular season and saw a plus-45 improvement in his plus-minus rating, from a minus-35 last season to a plus-10 this season.
“He’s a guy that I think was maybe a little miscast in the past,” Trotz said. “Ovi is one of those guys that really wants to win. He’s won virtually every award you can win individually and I think he’s at a real good time in his career, and I think we’re going to benefit from that.
“Now he wants to do something team-wise. For him to grow as a leader, that was my mandate with him. I’m going to share all my experiences with him and teach him how to lead and he’s bought in.”
Neither Trotz nor Ovechkin have ever been past the second round of the playoffs. Thanks to a conversation in Vegas, and some tweaks to his game, both men are just three wins a way from getting to the conference finals.