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If the Caps have a lead, expect to see less of Alex Ovechkin

May 2, 2012, 9:58 AM EDT

Alex Ovechkin Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin‘s ice time has been a major talking point throughout the playoffs. Whether the Caps win or lose, scanning Ovechkin’s time-on-ice column on the stat sheet has almost overtaken looking to see how many points he’s put up.

Caps coach Dale Hunter has made it obvious if they’re ahead, you won’t see much of Ovechkin late in games. CSNWashington’s Chuck Gormley hears from Caps defenseman Karl Alzner that while Ovechkin might want the minutes, he knows getting angry about it won’t help the team.

“You know he wants to play more and he’s frustrated at not playing 20 minutes,” Alzner said. “But he doesn’t care. He wants to win that game. He played 13 minutes and went out and scored the most important goal of the game.

“If guys are getting upset about ice time and that’s all you’re worried about you’re not going to play good. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of guys in the seven years I’ve been playing. It’s pretty obvious.”

It’s one thing if third and fourth line guys are yelling about minutes, it’s another thing entirely if it’s one of the five best players in the game. Watching how Hunter handles Ovechkin is proving to be a drama unto itself and one that leaves everyone open to criticism. Just imagine what the talk would’ve been had the Rangers won Game 2.

  1. supafinger - May 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    According to a previous article here on PHT, the Caps should just play these guys more so they can keep selling tickets, entertaining the crowd, and making money. Winning, and effective (so far) strategy be darned.

    • dipthatchip - May 2, 2012 at 10:21 AM

      seriously, wait until the Caps drop the ball to start criticism hype. As many stated in the previous article, Ovechkin and Green (jesus Green play like %$#@) were defensive liabilities early in game 2, so why not give them less ice time.

      Ovechking scores the PPG thatto take the lead and then Hunter put his guys out there that he could count on to work their ass off…I’m no expert but appears to be sound coaching to me

      • supafinger - May 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM

        @dip – Ever hear of sarcasm?

      • dipthatchip - May 2, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        supa, I fully understood your sarcasm…I was agreeing with it

      • supafinger - May 2, 2012 at 11:53 AM

        got it

    • Jason Brough - May 2, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Actually we didn’t say Hunter should play Ovechkin more. We said there’s a risk to playing conservative from a business perspective. The end.

      • mdnjdevil - May 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM

        And the simple suggestion of that makes this site more TMZ then, say, any other marginal sports site.

      • Jason Brough - May 2, 2012 at 11:32 AM

        How so?

      • mdnjdevil - May 2, 2012 at 11:34 AM

        Spin, spin, spin.

      • Jason Brough - May 2, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        Ridiculous. We talk about the business of hockey all the time. The Caps are winning by playing one of the superstars of the game less. It’s a great story.

      • mdnjdevil - May 2, 2012 at 11:45 AM

        “It’s one thing if third and fourth line guys are yelling about minutes, it’s another thing entirely if it’s one of the five best players in the game. Watching how Hunter handles Ovechkin is proving to be a drama unto itself and one that leaves everyone open to criticism. ”

        I think it is pretty obvious that it is not a drama to Ovechkin/Hunter or, at least, they are not playing it out in the media to be one. Ovechkin is frustrated, by your own quote from Alzner, not “yelling”. Assumption is the root of all evil, well bad reporting, or should I say opinion in this case.

        Spinning class anyone?

        Ovechkin is a smart enough player to understand that Dale is saving him for the times when he can use his fresh legs, speed, shot, and dekes, as an absolute advantage.

      • Jason Brough - May 2, 2012 at 11:56 AM

        Now you’re changing the subject. You originally criticized us for bringing up the business angle.
        Even worse, you slagged TMZ, as if you could cover Octomom’s bankruptcy crisis any better.

      • mdnjdevil - May 2, 2012 at 11:59 AM

        One thing leads to the other my man.

  2. comeonnowguys - May 2, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Playing “not to lose.” Exciting.

    • mdnjdevil - May 2, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      Yeah – the Penguins and Canucks learned how the opposite earns you an early exit.

      • Jason Brough - May 2, 2012 at 12:25 PM

        Actually, the Canucks played it too safe.

      • mdnjdevil - May 2, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        True enough.

  3. danaking - May 2, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    A week or two ago, all the talk was about how Ovechkin was killing them with his lack of defensive responsibility. Now Hunter is being taken to task for not playing him enough. I’m no Caps fan, but it seems Hunter is doing what he thinks he needs to do to win, and he’s taken a team that was out of the playoffs when he got the gig and put them into the second round. Seems like he’s earned a little deference.

    Boudreau might have done the same, had he been given the backing of management. I wonder if what happened here was Ovie and some others (Mike Green? Alex Semin?) didn;t like Boudreau cutting back their minutes, the team was losing, so Boudreau got canned. Hunter comes in and reaches some of the same conclusions, maybe management sees it’s not the coach, maybe we need to let this play out.

    I’ll be shocked if Semin is back next year,even at half of what he’s making.

  4. cosmo83 - May 2, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Maybe we could tak about the GMG he scored?? Nah, let gossip about stuff that fills headlines but doesn’t matter at all. Way to go PHT

  5. bethgoesglobal - May 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I agree with something Karl Alzner said, which was essentially, that it sucks that rather than talking about how great the game and win was we’re all talking about Ovi’s ice time.
    It’s a TEAM sport, so let’s talk about the team and how awesome these playoff games have been (low-scoring and all).

  6. kotteintheslot - May 2, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    “Watching how Hunter handles Ovechkin is proving to be a drama unto itself” to you guys. I dont know if you noticed, but Ovi seemed pretty happy after winning the game. Never saw him happy after he had all those big games in previous years after getting eliminated. He wants more ice time but he also wants to win. This is only a story to the media not the Caps team. They want to win. ALL of them and WHATEVER it takes regardless of peoples ice time.

  7. capsfan19 - May 2, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Honestly id rather win a cup then sell more tickets.
    Here’s a real business scheme for you, win a cup, gain exponentially more fans in the DC area. There’s so many bandwagon caps fans because they only watch when the caps do “good”. Imagine if they had won a cup? Those bandwagoners would become dedicated, go to more games, get more people interested and may the money flow.
    As a team that only had one sniff at a cup, doing what needs to be done should
    become imperative. I dont understand the business liability. People are going to go to caps games no matter what.

    • Jason Brough - May 2, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      “People are going to go to caps games no matter what” is a rather bold statement to make when they didn’t go to games until Ovechkin started lighting it up.
      That being said, Hunter’s winning his way and that’s his job. And if Caps fans are on board, all the power to him.

  8. bloggersarenotjournalists - May 2, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Sitting on leads always works too

  9. psuhockeyfan - May 2, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Seems like Hunter can’t win unless he wins the game AND Ovechkin does well. one or the other won’t be good enough anymore.

    I’ll take the winning games part, though.

  10. swizope82 - May 2, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Alex Ovechkin plays LW… That’s Left Wing for the late person; which is a forward position; one that is NOT DEFENSE… Our next headine of the day PHT, “Is the sky REALLY blue…”

  11. caps247 - May 2, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Of course Ovechkin won’t focus on defense, because that’s what he’s not PAID to do.
    I like Hunter’s strategy, using Ovechkin only when he actually needs him, because it keeps him fresh instead of worn down ( we all knew how he was when He was playing 20 minutes against Boston)

  12. hollywood26 - May 2, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    I’m not a really knowledgeable hockey person, I just love my Caps. But I can’t help but wonder how this works out. So, if this is winning hockey what do we do with Ovie next year?? if he doesn’t fit the system do we trade him?? It just seems that no matter what at the end of the day this isn’t gonna end well.

    • dowhatifeellike - May 2, 2012 at 4:34 PM

      He fits the system just fine – he’s the #1 guy when the Caps need a goal. He’s not as effective as he was a few years ago, but he still gets it done.

      Flip the situation the other way – if you really need a goal are you going to use Wideman and Shultz? No, of course not. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into personnel matchups. Ice time is not as important as matching up with the opponent and the situation. Just because you have 20 guys on the bench doesn’t mean they all need equal playing time.

      To use a baseball analogy, if you’re up 1 run in the 9th but your power-hitting 3rd baseman plays below-average defense, do you leave him in the game? No, you pull him for someone you can count on to make the play.

  13. acieu - May 2, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    If he doesn’t play trade him as why keep. $9million dollar a year cap hit when you can get Beagle for $300k and make Hunter happy. If less is more why not none to gain full value?

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