Just two shifts. Alex Ovechkin wasn’t on the ice for two shifts Tuesday night. It became a story because he’s a $9 million face of the Capitals, and those shifts represented key moments in the game.
“I think with every team and coaches, you always have your star player that you have to play, and they’re usually their clutch guys,” defenseman John Erskine said. “But I think if you’ve got a certain line – it could be the third or fourth line – that’s doing good and creating energy, you’ve got to play them.”
So the theme of accountability was stressed, though several players noted that, while it was great to see Ovechkin get treated like anyone else, superstars inevitably have a couple different rules and expectations.
“You always want everybody to be treated fairly. There’s 20 different personalities on the team. It’s impossible to be the same with all 20 guys,” ex-Washington captain Jeff Halpern said. “You’ve got to hold the standard that you play a certain way and you hold guys to that standard. It’s impossible to think certain players are on a tighter leash. It’s because you have star players that can make plays and you’ve got to give them room to make those plays.”
Halpern saw the butt end of accountability by being a healthy scratch against the Ducks. Mike Knuble saw it with a demotion to the fourth line. As veteran leaders on this team, it seemed neither player took it well – but that’s something coaches want: players angry and motivated.
Ovechkin’s benching, Knuble said, came at the right time to set a tone.
“I think it’s a good time of the year. You’re still in October, barely into november that [you] can kind of hammer home a couple points. Now’s the time to do it,” he said. “You’re not going to try to make points in march and april. You’re going to make your point in October and November.”
Even still, he realizes – like Halpern – that there can’t and won’t be one standard across the locker room.
“You get superstars and certain guys have a longer leash than other guys and can maybe not have a great game but still play, and other guys they have to have a good game all the time,” said Knuble, who days earlier made reference to his playing well against better opponents. “Nobody says it’s going to be equal all the time. You have superstars and they’re superstars for a reason because they’re good players.”