“The most important thing is the trust,” Ovechkin said.
So Ovechkin trusted his coach enough that when he told him, “You have to play right wing,” the captain obliged. After a brief switch back to the left side where he’s more comfortable, Ovechkin has played the past five games where Oates knows he belongs, at right wing, and the fruits of that experiment are starting to show.
“Every little decision is just a little bit different, but to me it’s like he gets 10 chances that he never got before,” Oates said. “Now he shoots it from that angle and there’s a rebound that his linemates are now available for. It’s just more zone time, more touches, more team getting into their end.”
Oates saw plenty of growth out of Ovechkin over the past week or so, even before his $9 million scorer broke his even-strength goal drought Saturday night. Ovechkin has had the puck on his stick more than in the past, something Oates believed would lead to more chances.
“You can see it and I can feel it,” Ovechkin said. “It’s very important for me.”
Scoring is important to Ovechkin, too. And teammates are confident that will come.
“He’s skating, he’s got a lot of chance to shoot,” left wing Jason Chimera said. “He’s going to break through. I think it’s just a matter of time.”
But as with the rest of his team, Oates has made it clear he’s more concerned about getting Ovechkin to play the right way. That process included Ovechkin skating on a line with Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle and, earlier in the season, seeing some penalty-killing time.
“He’s getting a lot more chances on the right side than the left. He’s a much more effective player,” general manager George McPhee said. “I like it a lot. You may disagree, but it looks a lot better to us.”
Any disagreement would stem from lagging production, as Ovechkin has just four goals in the Caps’ first 12 games. Three of them were on the power play, with two coming from just about the exact same spot. And Oates said the goal Ovechkin scored from the faceoff circle Saturday night was something he’s done “a lot.”
But there’s little doubt that Ovechkin’s all-around game has been strong, something he saw on video.
“You can see in a couple games in a row if [Mike Ribeiro] or [Nicklas Backstrom] control the puck, take the puck in the middle, I have wide-open chances on right side,” Ovechkin said. “It’s getting closer. I have a chance and I have very good opportunities to get two or three goals in a game. So it’s coming back.”View Entire Story
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