April 20, 2012
No-Vie: Ovechkin Benched In Washington Win
What a performance by young Braden Holtby on Thursday night. No fewer than 44 saves, many of them of the spectacular variety, to shut down the defending Stanley Cup Boston Bruins by a score of 2-1.
Holtby has had to fantastic, after all the Washington Capitals are hardly known as a great defensive team. But coach Dale Hunter has figured out one key to defending a lead - bench captain Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin played only 4 shifts totalling 1:58 in the third period. He was on the ice for only 54 seconds in final 17:20 and only 15 seconds in the final 14:00. Fellow disinterested defensive players Alexander Semin and Mike Green were also parked in the third, but they at least played twice as much as Washington's captain.
Ovechkin did play over 15 minutes total in the first two periods, the second most of any Caps player. But the television broadcasters were quick to point out his defensive lapses, some of which were of the egregious variety.
Ovechkin's third period playing time is a pretty telling statistic about Ovechkin. He has always been a poor defensive player, and it is what separates him from a) winning a championship and, possibly, b) the respect that comes with true greatness.
Hunter is a coach who may be desperate to keep his job. Desperate enough to bench his captain and his best player. Coaches in the past have tried to work with Ovechkin on his defensive game, but to no avail. It appears Hunter has decided the only way to deal with it is to just not play him.