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

Apr 20, 2012, 5:08 PM EDT

Alex Ovechkin Getty Images

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.”

  1. gianthatr - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Where’s all the OV bashers at? Saying he’s not a good Captain this and that blah blah…. You’re seeing a Captain born right before your eyes. Be amazed.

  2. ray2013 - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    I don’t know a lot of coaches in any sport that would bench the face of the franchise. It sends a pretty clear message to the team, not just Ovie, that you follow what Hunter is selling or you’ll sit. Good on Hunter for doing it, and it’s probably a good thing they won or we’d see a dozen articles on how Hunter’s decision cost them a critical game.

    • fullbagg - Apr 21, 2012 at 2:10 AM

      I think Hunter is getting his feet under him in this modern NHL. The last 10 minutes in game 4 against the Bully Bruins (Thats a complimenta Amerikakkk) was a defensive gem. The Bruins were Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated Frustrated!

      Ovi was with a team of run and gunners since he has been in the league. The playoffs are a league of its own and he has humbled himself. Lets see where the Caps land.

      The next game decides the series. Thomas versus Holtby.

      Thomas is the pure bred. Holtby???? He is earning and burning so far…

  3. sgtr0c - Apr 20, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    I am a Flyers fan, have nothing to do with any of this. This is nothing more than a coach doing his job correctly and a captain acceptting his responsiblity correctly. Good job, Caps.

    • fullbagg - Apr 21, 2012 at 2:12 AM

      The pengwhines will lose in the end MegaDeth fan!! ;]

  4. dowhatifeellike - Apr 20, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Semin was playing D last night. Johansson doesn’t turn the puck over. But even having said that, neither touched 4 minutes in the 3rd period. You can’t just run lines of 4 defensemen and a center. Wingers have to pitch in a little too, and they did.

  5. vtdcfan - Apr 20, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    seems to me he has sat before and its worked out at least once. obviously normally u want the captain on the ice as much as possible but we all have our moments when we just aren’t playin like we know we can. good for the coach and good for the caps because we got a win… if ovie sits and we lose then the can of worms opens but luckily we end up with a W. can’t argue with that. Ovie, come back with a vengeance next game and hush the critics! Go Caps!!

  6. oviovertime - Apr 20, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    He did what a captain does, does what is best for the team. And as far as semin playing, semin is actually a really good defensive forward. And it actually seems like semin is caring for the first time in awhile. Every body was buying into the gameplay last night. The first time I’ve seen it in the past from years. Go caps!

  7. bmoreredfury311 - Apr 21, 2012 at 12:07 AM

    great heads up move by hunter, grinders finished that game hard for the caps. Gotta do it again, in boston..c-a-p-s!

  8. caps247 - Apr 21, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that ever since Ovie released that humbling statement, all of his haters immediately became silent. He is acting like a true Captain would, because he knows Hunter’s decisions are for the best of the team. He also is knowledgeable that he is not the best defensive forward, and is willing to be benched if it means a huge game win for the Caps. That’s a leader right there, folks. He knows how to sacrifice and take one for the team.

  9. dsd3 - Apr 21, 2012 at 8:17 PM

    Props to Ovechkin.

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