Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
This season, Alex Ovechkin’s shot has been an unstoppable force of destruction. Ovi has registered 31 goals. His line’s scoring, however, has often been one-sided. Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin’s linemates for much of the season, have scored just six even-strength goals. When Ovi’s hitting the net, it’s not a problem. But if last year’s MVP hits some bad luck, as he did over the four games before last night, the line struggles. Ovechkin has just a single assist during five-on-five play.
“It’s not enough,” Oates said when I asked him about that stat. “It shows how much all three guys are important.”
For Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, Oates switched up his lines, putting Ovechkin with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski while placing Johansson and Backstrom with Brouwer.
While Backstrom and Johansson have been consistent producers this season, the majority of their points, along with Ovechkin’s, have come on the power play. Oates hopes, at least in some small way, to see the two Swedes dish less and go towards the net more.
“If that, in their minds, takes a little bit of a variable away, good,” Oates said of removing Ovechkin from Nick and Marcus. “That’s why when some guys aren’t scoring, that’s the first thing you say, get them to shoot more.”
Last night, the new lines both tallied goals, with Ovechkin also earning himself a penalty shot.
As for Fehr, he’s known for his big shot. Playing with Ovechkin, however, Fehr says he wants to be more balanced on a line that has scoring threats from every position.
“I’m trying to turn myself into a 50-50 passing and shooting as opposed to just shooting everything,” he said. “It’s a different style of play definitely. It’s something I’ll have to get used to, but it’ll work.”