- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
- U.N. warns of Muslim ‘cleansing’ in Central African Republic
- Senate blocks change to military sex assault cases
- Drug mix may have cured child born with HIV, doctors say
- De Blasio’s wife irks former mansion chef with ‘servant’ remark
- Russia’s neighbors shiver amid Putin’s Cold War moves in Ukraine
- New SAT: The essay portion is to become optional
- Military group can’t march to honor the fallen at Boston Marathon due to security changes
- Senate passes bills deleting ‘retarded’ from laws
- China announces biggest military hike in 3 years: We are not ‘boy scouts with spears’
Dale Hunter keeps pulling the right strings for Capitals
Ovechkin came through despite marginal ice time
Consider Monday night’s Game 2 in a vacuum without consideration of salary, reputation or statistics, and Alex Ovechkin’s numbers made him look like a clutch third-liner and power-play specialist.
He played a career playoff-low 13:36, including 10:36 at even-strength — fourth-lowest on the Washington Capitals.
Used in such a limited role, Ovechkin looked like a $9 million role player, an offensively potent wing whose defensive liability kept coach Dale Hunter from leaning heavily on his captain and highest-paid player.
“It’s hard to argue when we’re winning hockey games,” forward Jason Chimera said. “A lot of guys, their ice time has gone down, but we’re winning hockey games. You can’t argue with that.”
Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green all saw limited action, but the Capitals managed to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 to even the series at a game apiece. And though Ovechkin scored the decisive goal, Hunter’s strategy of sitting him when nursing a lead or in a tie game is becoming difficult to dispute.
“Anybody who’s following our team, you see he’s coaching the situations,” alternate captain Mike Knuble said. “If we’re down a goal, he’s going to be our main guy. He’s going every other shift. If we’re up a goal, then Dale tends to lean on other guys.”
But Hunter’s not coaching based on salaries or expectations. Treating players the same as far as accountability and ice time worked with London in the Ontario Hockey League, and it’s serving the Caps well now.
“I think you, as a coach, you get more respect that way,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Sometimes the guys that are working extremely hard and aren’t getting the minutes that they hope they’re getting, they would get frustrated. I think when you reward whoever’s going at that time or keeping it more even, collectively, everybody’s a little bit more happy.”
There’s a morale element that seems to be helping. Ex-forward Matt Bradley made some comments on radio last summer about former coach Bruce Boudreau not rewarding hard-working players with extra minutes in the playoffs,
That’s not happening with Hunter.
“We’re sticking to whatever we have to do. However much you play, however little you play I think that our goal is to win the game and everyone’s happy if we’re winning,” defenseman John Carlson said. “Whatever it is, he wants the best, and I think that he is a fair coach and guys thrive on that.”
Washington has won all four games in which Ovechkin has played 17:01 or less. But the danger is in the star left wing growing disgruntled.
“It’s the most important thing right now…. It’s the playoffs,” Ovechkin. “How I said before, you have to suck it up and play for the team.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- WHYNO: Tomas Vokoun gets unexpected Stanley Cup shot with Penguins
- Brandon Meriweather, Redskins' secondary ready for bounceback year
- Kirk Cousins embraces role as Redskins' offseason starter as RG3 rehabs from injury
- Capitals notes: Realignment won't prompt roster remake
- Despite Caps' first-round playoff exit, Adam Oates' first season as coach left a positive taste
Latest Blog Entries
- Redskins injury updates (5/23): WR Pierre Garcon, CB Josh Wilson each had labrum surgery
- Capitals 'love' Matt Hendricks, but how much?
- Wojtek Wolski signs in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League
- Tom Poti won't return to Capitals, plans to continue his NHL career
- Is Tom Wilson ready to be a regular for Capitals?
By Tammy Bruce
- Back to the Future: HUVr Tech marketing video goes viral with hoverboard release tease
- Unemployment insurance vote could happen next week
- Two liberals say Sarah Palin is right: Obama lacks substance
- MEANS: U.S. economy on schedule to crash March 4, 2014
- 1M kids stop school lunch due to Michelle Obamas food standards
- Russian lawmaker wants to outlaw U.S. dollar, calls it a Ponzi scheme
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
- MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: Bush to blame for Ukraine
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again