Alex Ovechkin

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.

Ovi and Mojo Collide

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.

Alex Ovechkin collides with Wojtek Wolski

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.

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  • http://twitter.com/sohlmac Scott Olmaché

    This was the most telling play of the game for me. I don’t really buy into the the “un-coachable” critiques, but Ovi seems to be having a lot of trouble with the learning curve on this one.

    That said, does anyone think the solution is for him to go back to LW where he was so easily contained last season? Early last season, someone (likely this site, but I can’t recall) wrote about an “even more dangerous” version of Ovechkin where he went hard to the net and made hay with loose pucks. Is there any evidence of that guy still existing?

  • http://twitter.com/pthread Jim Kelly

    Meh. It wasn’t a normal entry play, what with Wolski not really doing anything but coasting and Ovi trying to cut behind him. They don’t usually play together. I think you are making too much of it. Certainly this isn’t the only collision we’ve ever seen between players.

  • Stacy Harrison

    I’m not convinced Ovi even wants to be here.

  • Brad Daugherty

    Why does it just seem like Ov doesn’t have the outstanding skill set anymore. Don’t get me wrong, i have loved Ovi forever. But he hasn’t been.. “scary” to the other team in a very long time. No new moves. He doesn’t have that “dangerous” urgency that Geno, and any star of any team has. I’m at a loss of words seeing his lack of scoring. I don’t even know. He doesn’t seem to care. It sucks.

  • serpent

    How about Brooks coaching Ovi? Brooks can play anywhere. Maybe he can give Ovi some ideas on the mental shift needed to switch positions.

  • John Pelton

    There are just to many new factors that are playing into this team right now. Far to much for them to be comfortable with in such a short span.

    1. New Coach and system to learn

    2. New Players

    3. Lockout – Players lost their timing and are not in regular game condition.

    4. Shortened training camp to learn new system. 6 days with no NHL play.

    5. If all that was not enough, lets throw OV on the right side right off the bat. Wrong.

    This is something that I think could work out very well, however this is something we should be trying LATER in the season once we have our groove, timing and tempo down. There are just to many factors up in the air, trying to do to many new things at once and its a mess. We need to get comfortable with the basics, start winning some games, get the new system down to a T. THEN see if putting OV on the other side might work. Then start scrambling lines creating offense if necessary. We switched up the system and added new players, we need to learn this new system with consistent line mates. Know each others play style and what they are going to do before they do it.

    My 2c.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikhail.pakhorukov Mikhail Pakhorukov

    i suggest it’s not the case. Backstrom looks the same. Carlzner as well. They cant just lose the skillset at the same time. They just are lost with the new system if there is any.

  • sf

    He’s very one dimensional. All the other top scorers have adapted, Ovi hasn’t

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Not really.

    Main reasons Ovi has declined:

    1. Age.
    2. Age.
    3. Age.
    4. Reduced ice time.
    5. Worse deployments than his peers.
    6. Worse linemates.
    7. Lack of tactical advice (e.g. hot shooting locations) from coaches.
    8. Lower goal production across NHL.
    9. Also, age.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Obviously last year was different with Hunter, but this season Oates has been giving him a lot of opportunity: 23 minutes per game. If the season ended today, he would have the highest average per game ice time of his career. That should help eventually once the team finds its niche this year. http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/o/ovechal01.html