Dale Hunter tried to play it off as just experimenting in practice. No, putting Washington Capitals franchise cornerstones together for the first time all playoffs is not just throwing them out there for a morning skate and seeing what happens.
Not the way Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were talking, excited about being reunited for at least the start of Game 3 against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
“I think we have chemistry, it’s not a secret,” Ovechkin said. “He can control the puck in the neutral zone and skate and find me in open spots. He’s a top center in the league, I’ve played with him and it’s nice.”
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Marcus Johansson will be skating together for the first time all playoffs, though familiarity should make it easy for them to pick up right where they left off.
“I hope so, just going to try to get the puck to him. Me, Marcus are passers on that line we know he has a good shot and just gotta make sure he’s open and then we’ll try to find him,” Backstrom said. “We’ll all three go hard to the net and try to get goals.”
Ovechkin pointed out that he’ll start playing with Backstrom, but “I don’t know how it will go, if we’re going to play a whole game or maybe just one period or maybe one shift, we’ll see.”
Hunter admitted that he typically likes keeping Ovechkin and Backstrom apart so opponents have to split forces to key on both.
They haven’t played much together recently, save for the power play and some key late-game situations.
“We haven’t much at all, but we should know each other because we’ve played with each other for a long time,” Backstrom said. “We’ve got to go out and do our job out there and make sure we get some chances and stuff, work hard and do all those little things right, too.”
Expect Ovechkin to play much more than the 13:36 he had in Game 2, but he and his Caps teammates are bristling at the topic.
“I don’t think it’s time right now to talk about it,” the captain said. “We’re not [concerned] about giving me 30-40 minutes of ice time, we’re here to make suggestions [on how] to make a win. If it takes giving me 13 minutes of ice-time and we win the game, I’ll take it.”