Ovechkin makes most of limited minutes
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI AGENCY
|Alex Ovechkin, of the Washington Capitals, celebrates with teammates Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom after Ovechkin scored a goal to give the Capitals a 3-2 win in New York City Monday night. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP)
Interesting how the captains contributed, or didn’t, as Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals unfolded Monday night.
There was Rangers captain Ryan Callahan hitting everything in a Capitals sweater — in Callahan’s case, defenceman Mike Green was more or less everything — and trying to set the tone for the evening.
The Caps defencemen picked up on it as Roman Hamrlik and Karl Alzner, like Green, began hearing footsteps.
And there was Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin doing a whole lot of nothing as coach Dale Hunter used him for just 3:33 in the opening 20 minutes.
Sure, the Caps had some penalties to kill, thereby upending the flow off the bench, but it was only three, and two of those were in the final few minutes.
One of the simplest tenets in playoff hockey is that your best players have to be your best players. Hard for that to happen when your most prolific performer is spending most of the game standing at the bench or taking it one step further and dangling one leg over the boards.
But give Hunter credit — he pushed the right buttons for Ovechkin in Game 2.
If nothing else, Ovechkin has a flair for the dramatic, an ability to make a difference that most players are incapable of making.
Few of his NHL colleagues can score from 40 feet with a wrist shot, but Ovechkin did just that during a Capitals power play with less than eight minutes remaining in the third period.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was screened by teammate Ryan McDonagh and Caps forward Troy Brouwer and was unable to pick up Ovechkin’s shot, which went into the net and stood up as the winner.
In the end, Ovechkin was on the ice for a total of just 13:36 in a 3-2 Capitals victory.
But as stars can do, he made the last of those minutes count.
When talking to hockey people about the impending free-agent class this summer, the discussion usually centres around New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenceman Ryan Suter with everyone else in a secondary group. Part of that group is Capitals forward Alexander Semin, who has loads of talent but not the desire. Semin made $6.7 million US this past season and undoubtedly will get a raise from a smarter-than-the-rest-of-us general manager early in July. A wiser, safer signing would be Parise, who Devils coach Peter DeBoer called his team’s “heartbeat” during the first-round victory against the Florida Panthers. On too many nights, Semin doesn’t have a pulse ... The Caps’ first goal was the result of a sweet tic-tac-toe passing exhibition by Keith Aucoin, Joel Ward and Mike Knuble, with Knuble putting the puck into the net. But none of it happens without a brutal giveaway by Rangers defenceman Stu Bickel at the Capitals blueline ... Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto won’t need an alarm clock in the next few days. The ringing posts from two of his shots in the third period Monday should be enough to jolt him out of bed.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
It's good that B.J. Crombeen and Dwight King got the obligatory fight done and over with early in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal involving the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings. King delivered the hit that knocked defenceman Alex Pietrangelo out of the Blues lineup and knew he would have to answer for it. Few words were spoken between Crombeen and King as they lined up opposite each other for the faceoff before they dropped the gloves, but nothing had to be said. Pietrangelo, replaced by Ian Cole, could return for Game 3 ... The Blues are in a two-game hole heading to L.A. and their power play is a significant reason. The Blues were 0-for-12 on the power play in the first two games after going 0-for-14 with a man advantage against the Kings in four games during the regular season. Ken Hitchcock has precious little time to figure out a solution ... Where the Blues will have to be careful, too, is in controlling their emotions. Nine of their 11 minors in a 5-2 loss on Monday night were for roughing. It’s fine to play on the edge, but crossing the line, especially after whistles, can be deadly.