In selling the idea of cutting down Alex Ovechkin’s time on the power play – a concept that screams “Bad Idea Jeans” at face value – Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz might be wiser in selling the idea of generally “making the best of his time.”
Either way, it’s a tricky situation that will require a deft hand. Trotz laid out his general concept with Mike Vogel of the team’s website:
“With [Matt] Niskanen and [John] Carlson and [Mike] Green and him, there is no reason that he needs to stay out there for two minutes,” Trotz said. “I think we can have two good power plays on the back end, I think we’ll be more successful and I think he will have more pace in his game.”
“You start compounding a bunch of two-minute shifts and you don’t have that same zip. Instead of 10 two-minute shifts, I’d rather have 20 one-minute shifts or 27 45-second shifts. I guarantee you he’ll be faster, he’ll play faster and he’ll be more dangerous. The game is played faster now.”
Vogel actually lays out what might be the most compelling part of this argument:
Having a forward playing the point for the full two minutes on the power play can have a jumbling effect on both the forward lines and the defensive pairs in the aftermath of the man advantage. If Ovechkin starts on the power play from his customary left point position and is relieved midway through the man advantage, the Caps will be able to finish out the two minutes with a pair of defensemen manning the points. That should make for fewer “ripples” in the rotation of the forward lines and defensive pairs once the two sides return to even strength.
Conserving Ovechkin’s energy so that he can be fresher in five-on-five situations? That doesn’t sound … totally misguided.
That said, the 29-year-old is arguably the most dangerous power play weapon (give or take a healthy Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby here or there) in the league and indisputably put up the biggest man-advantage numbers last season. Not many other players are referred to as a “nuclear bomb” on the power play, after all.
As excited as the Capitals are about adding Matt Niskanen’s skills to the mix, the bottom line is that no Capitals player possesses a more dangerous shot than Ovechkin, so utilizing that to its full advantage is of significant importance to Washington’s success.
That’s not to say that slightly reducing Ovechkin’s shifts would curtail his effectiveness. It’s also plausible that his overall game might improve with Trotz’s seemingly balance-centric approach.
Still, when you consider that part of Ovechkin’s numbers come from sheer volume – the guy is one of the few NHL players with the confidence to let shots fly from seemingly anywhere – Trotz faces a delicate balancing act:
Read on for more interesting insight Ovechkin, including Trotz’s promising take on why playing Ovechkin primarily at LW is worth whatever defensive drawbacks might come. (Seriously, that’s a meaty perspective on an interesting story to watch in 2014-15.)