WINNIPEG, Manitoba | Wherever the Capitals go, Alex Ovechkin is the center of attention. In Canada, the attention is particularly intense.
When he’s going well, media members flock to Ovechkin and coach Bruce Boudreau to talk about the superstar. When he’s struggling – as has been the case recently – media members flock to wonder what’s wrong.
Boudreau talked for almost 10 minutes Thursday morning at MTS Centre, with much of the conversation, predictably, centering on Ovechkin and his “frustration.”
“We all have our moments where things aren’t going right on a game-to-game or day-to-day basis,” Boudreau said. “You have work days where you just have a day where it doesn’t work right and you get frustrated.”
Asked a question that we asked around the league for Thursday’s newspaper story – Has the NHL figured Ovechkin out? – Boudreau was diplomatic and straightforward.
“I think there’s a sense that other teams key on him all the time,” he said. “But that’s the same with every good player on every team – they find ways to key on him, and it’s up to us and him to find ways to get around them. It’s just the way nature goes and hockey goes.”
Of course, he cautioned, “It’s game 16. Tell me at game 75 and I’ll let you know what we’ll do better.”
Thursday night was not Ovechkin’s best performance. He was held without a point for the third straight game, taking five unsuccessful shots on net in 18:12.
Ovechkin had a couple chances but couldn’t solve Ondrej Pavelec. Asked about Ovechkin after the game by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, who has been embedded with the team during this road trip, Boudreau’s response came as a bit of a surprise.
“You know what, I don’t want to talk about Alex tonight. Everywhere we go, people ask me the same question about Alex,” the coach said. “I just don’t feel like talking about him tonight.”
It’s worth noting the context of the day’s questions and Ovechkin’s struggles when considering that answer. Ovechkin graded his own performance so far this season as “so-so” earlier in the day, and the game did nothing to upgrade that.
The problem is, it’s not like the Caps are coming home or going somewhere with a dim spotlight. Practice in Toronto on Friday and the morning skate Saturday will likely include a new onslaught of more questions about Ovechkin, who’s on the minus side of the ledger through 17 games with seven goals and seven assists.
The silver lining? There might soon be something good to talk about with Ovechkin again, given his propensity to shine on “Hockey Night in Canada” at Air Canada Centre against the Maple Leafs. If that trend does not continue, the questions will undoubtedly linger.