Alex Ovechkin only played for a total of 1 minute, 58 seconds in the third period of game four Thursday night in Washington. At about the 14 minute mark of the third period Dale Hunter shut the super star Ovechkin down. This strategy would later be explained by all involved with grinning faces and a completely opposite attitude from Ovechkin that one might think.
The often not shy super star had this to say about Dale Hunter and his staff letting him ride the pine:
”It doesn’t matter how many minutes I play. Of course I want to be there, but it’s his decision.”
Defensive Mind Set
I think what we witnessed in this bench management is the absolute trust that Washington now has in Coach Dale Hunter to make a strong decision like sitting a ten million dollar man in order to craft better defensive strategy. I am almost certain that Bruce Boudreau doesn’t make that same decision under similar circumstances.
Dale Hunter :
”At the end of the game there, you’ve got your shot-blockers out there, and you want your best players blocking shots, but your offensive guys, but you don’t want them breaking a foot, either,’
What Dale Hunter is doing by putting Ovechkin on the bench is protecting the million dollar asset. It is also not hard to see that Ovechkin can have a lazy attitude towards defensive responsibility and he is best served watching from the bench, teammates like Jay Beagle go out and make huge shot blocks.
”’Beags’ has got the knack. You see at the end of the game, he slid at the right time? It takes timing,” Hunter said regarding the big shot block from Beagle with 10 seconds left in the game.
Blocked Shots and Smiles
”Ovie, he’s a team guy. He’s rooting for the guys on the bench,” Hunter said. ”When ‘Beags’ goes down there, he’s the first one to jump up and yell. You appreciate what guys like that do, and that’s why he’s a real team guy.”
This could be the attitude that has been missing in the Washington dressing room over the last few years. Something tells me the team is starting to find the glue that binds them. Many in the CBC media point fingers at this Washington team and constantly drone on how they are not “team oriented” when Ovechkin turns the puck over or makes a bad play offensively. With the amount of turn overs that Ottawa Senators Jason Spezza makes you could say the same thing regarding his team and lack of unity. However that isn’t the case, highly skilled players like Spezza and Ovechkin are going to try exciting plays and make mistakes. Side by side those two players often led the NHL in turnovers. It is time for certain CBC analysts to give Ovechkin a break.
The Washington Capitals in order to win a game on the road today against the defending Stanley Cup Champions will need to stay United or Divided they will fall. I will be watching the bench management of Alex Ovechkin and how he reacts to it throughout the next two games. Back to back afternoon matinees coming up today and tomorrow will really stretch the bench. These two coaches will be worried about keeping players healthy late in game five if the score is out of reach.
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