That hasn’t been the case for Alexander Ovechkin.
For the third time in the past five games, Ovechkin played less than 17 minutes in a Stanley Cup playoff game for the Caps on Monday. In fact, Ovi played a career-low in the postseason of just 13:36 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers. But the Caps captain made the most of it, netting what would be the game-winner in a 3-2 victory for Washington.
After a disappointing Game 1, Ovi’s critics came out and feasted on his poor play. He put up zero points, had only one shot on goal and finished the game as a minus-one. During a 34-second 5-on-3 in the second period, Ovechkin hammered the puck wide and had another hard shot blocked. He then took a lazy penalty after trying to beat two Rangers by himself and was basically invisible for the rest of the game.
This has been the dig against Ovechkin for the last two seasons, that he has become a non-factor on the ice and that he is just a shell of the guy who two seasons ago scored 50 goals. But with his lack of production and depletion of ice time, does it really matter how many points the Great 8 produces as long as the Caps are able to win games?
Ovechkin himself doesn’t seem to mind.
”I feel good. You have to suck it up and use time what Dale [Hunter] is giving to me,” Ovechkin said. “First period, two periods I didn’t play a lot and I have a couple opportunities I didn’t use it. In third, two power plays—I think on first power play we move well and on second one finally it goes in.
“It’s most important thing right now guys just win the series and win the game. If you gonna talk about my game time and all that kind of stuff, it’s not a season—it’s the playoffs. How I said before, you have to suck it up and play for team.”
Even a season ago, that statement would have been a reach for Ovechkin, who finally seems to be buying into the team-first mentality that head coach Dale Hunter has hammered home.
“He’s a team guy. One thing about that, it leaves him real fresh for the power play,” said Hunter. “The power play was good tonight, and he had the winner on it, and he was fresh to go on the offensive game.”
We may not be getting the Ovechkin we’re used to seeing, but as long as Washington keeps winning, Ovi and the Caps could care less.