Photo credit: Rob Carr
Coming into the season, Washington Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates had a bold idea. After studying countless hours of film during the lockout, the Hall of Fame player saw that Alex Ovechkin had become too predictable off the left wing and that opposing team’s defensemen had figured him out. So Oates asked the Russian Machine to try playing on the right wing, hoping that it would spur creativity and give Ovechkin more open ice.
“I think it balances his game out and gives him the opportunity to get more pucks on both sides of the ice,” Oates said after the Caps’ 6-3 loss to Tampa, according to CSN’s Chuck Gormley. “I watched him in the past and I know his spot and I know where he loves [to shoot] and I’m not taking that away. We’re just trying to add and get him more touches.”
Three games into the new season, Ovechkin has scored no goals and at times has looked lost. Really lost.
Take, for example, the Capitals scrimmage against their ECHL affiliate the Reading Royals during training camp. In the first period of the game while trying to enter the offensive zone, Ovechkin brutally collided with Marcus Johansson, bloodying his own chin. It was Ovechkin, rather than Johansson, who was on the wrong side. It’s akin to a third basemen switching to first base — and then continuing to go to third base every inning.
Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens, nearly the identical play occurred. As Ovi takes a drop pass and skated the puck towards the Habs offensive zone, he crashes into Wojtek Wolski, who is toeing the blueline. Ovechkin appears to not even see Wolski as he tries to take the puck into the zone on the left side.
GIF by welshhockeyfan
In an attempt to jump-start the captain, Oates moved Ovechkin temporarily back to the left wing in the third period. The 27-year-old had zero even-strength shots in the game’s final twenty minutes.
“I still think he should be a right winger, but I also want him to be happy and get something out of his game,” Oates said of the move. “It was more trying to get a spark for him and get him going.”
Let’s hope it clicks soon, or this lockout-shortened season will become a lost one.
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.