The start of this season has been tumultuous because of Adam Oates‘ experiment with Ovechkin on right wing and the rotating cast of characters playing alongside the captain. But as center Mike Ribeiro said when also criticizing himself, “Ovi can play better.”
Mired in his longest goal-scoring drought to start a season, Ovechkin needs to play better for the Caps to win consistently.
“I think he needs a couple goals to relax and let it happen,” Oates said. “We have a few guys in that boat, and that’s understandable for sure. He’ll get on the power play, he’ll get a rebound he’ll get it then we’ll get going and we’re fine.”
Ovechkin will go back to left wing for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. But perhaps the most surprising thing, at least before Friday night, was that he could be again skating on a line with grinders Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
“Coming in before the season I didn’t pencil myself in playing on a line with Ovechkin,” said Crabb, a fourth-liner who once played with Phil Kessel on the Toronto Maple Leafs. “But when you get presented with opportunities like that, you try to do the best with them.”
Returns were good for Beagle and Crabb in their first game with Ovechkin, Friday night at the New Jersey Devils. Beagle came close to setting up Crabb for his second goal of the season on the first shift of the second period.
“Playing with Ovi it almost opens up a lot more room for me and Crabber. It’s kind of weird,” Beagle said. “I’ve never really experienced something where two defenders are on one guy so there’s two-on-ones all over the ice kind of because you’re playing with Ovi.
“For them, they have more ice time, they have opportunity to play against the best ones and, you know, make a score,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always nice for me and for them to make creativity out there. You can see how they two-on-one, a couple chances, because one D and one guy came to me. It’s opened up space for them too.”
There is that benefit. Ovechkin, despite a decrease in production in recent years, still attracts attention. But Beagle (seven career NHL goals) and Crabb (19) can’t be counted on to provide the bulk of the Caps’ offensive output.
The onus there is on Ovechkin, who is the highest-paid player on the roster because he’s an elite goal-scorer. Having none, he said, is “tough.”
“Of course I wanna see my name on the score list,” the captain said. “We’re gonna try. It’s not frustrating. Right now most important thing it’s not about make a points or make goals. We have to take a win. One win and then I think it’s gonna be a very relief for us.”
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