Alex Ovechkin, who has zero goals in his past three games since recording a hat trick, wants to puck and he wants it in the neutral zone. Even more so, he’s asked center Mike Ribeiro for it.
“Of course I want more pucks on my stick, especially in neutral zone,” the Washington Capitals captain said Monday. “I talk to Ribs all the time about it like if I have speed, just give it to me. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to stay with the D because I’m going to beat them.”
Ovechkin has played on a line with Ribeiro for the past 13 games, over a month now. The two have developed chemistry, even if Ovechkin has just eight goals this season.
Asked about Ovechkin wanting the puck to carry into the offensive zone, Ribeiro said it’s dependent on break-outs.
“If I don’t have the puck coming out of my zone it’s hard to give it to him,” Ribeiro said. “If it’s chipped a lot of times he has to be the guy to chase that puck. Obviously when I have the puck in neutral zone, I try to find him, but last game I think a lot of our game was chip it out of our zone and trying to get some races there and he needs to get used to that. That’s the name of the game now is to chip the puck and chase it. … That’s something he has to adjust to.”
Coach Adam Oates said that’s part of what he and Ovechkin talked about Monday morning, that the star had plenty of touches Saturday at Winnipeg, playing alongside Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks. Oates said there were times Ovechkin wasn’t in the right place to get the puck from Hendricks.
“You know, he’ll get it there with speed and time, and it’s just part of the transition that, over time, they’ll learn,” he said. “I thought there was another 10 touches, at least, there available for him.”
Ovechkin likes being able to control the rush instead of getting the puck on a cycle.
“Of course when I have speed that’s when I want it. I don’t want to have speed and stop on the blue line and then slowly go to offensive zone and then lost the puck and then go back,” he said. “It’s kind of position you going to be struggling all the time. If I’m going to have that kind of position, puck in neutral zone and I can make a move we’ll make puck deep and find it that way, I’m going to feel much better.”
Ribeiro, who leads the Caps in assists (17) and points (24), acknowledged Ovechkin likes to be in control.
“Obviously for a guy who likes to have the puck a lot and shoot a lot of times you don’t want to go get the puck a lot of times, you want the puck to come to you,” Ribeiro said.
But that’s not always possible. Oates was satisfied with the amount of touches Ovechkin got in the victory over the Jets but not as happy with that number in a blowout loss at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Even in Winnipeg, Ovechkin “could’ve had more,” Oates said. “There’s always more available, and I want to let him know that he has to contribute to that. It’s not just them. It’s him. He’s got to be a part of that, and there’s five guys on the ice. He’s got to earn his keep, too.”
How does Ovechkin go about doing that?
“By being in better position,” Oates said.