There have been numerous instances this year where Alexander Ovechkin’s defensive play has been called into question. Last weeks situation may have been the most glaring situation of lack of effort yet. Last Tuesday night the Washington Capitals played host to the Dallas Stars. Both teams are fighting for the final wildcard spot in their conference, so you would think it would be a highly contested game. Well not so much, at least from the Washington Capitals intensity level. The game ended up being a very important 5-0 Dallas win.
The play of Washington Capitals team captain Alexander Ovechkin was called into question by many media members and more importantly his coach. During the third period Ovechkin failed to backcheck and pick up his defensive responsibility which resulted in another Stars goal by Dustin Jeffery.
This poor play resulted in his coach calling his defensive play into question. Capitals coach Adam Oates commented on Ovechkin’s play by saying “Alex Ovechkin “quit” on the play that led to the Dallas Stars fourth goal in the tremendous drubbing”. It is never good when a coach calls out a player, but this is definitely one instance where it is completely justified.
Ovechkin replied to his coaches comments by saying. “He is the head coach and I get the blame from it, but in that moment I think everybody quit on the play”. He went on to say “To be honest with you I didn’t see him, I kind of lost position. It is what it is”. These comments made many wonder how this could come out of a team’s captains mouth. It is very evident by his play, and comments that he is not showing proper leadership qualities.
Ovechkins -35 plus/minus leads the league for the worst. This is absolutely crazy considering he leads the league in goals by eight with 49 goals. He also has 25 assists which gives him 74 total points. Another scary stat is that he has not scored an even strength goal since February 27th.
The timing of this recent poor play is very puzzling considering the Capitals are battling for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Another troubling aspect of this is that Ovechkin is one of the most talented players in the league. He has the capabilities of being a strong defensive player, but it looks like he chooses not to make this aspect of the game a priority. He is a strong skater, great hitter and can skate amongst the fastest in the league. There is just no excuse that defensive play has not become a priority for him.
The fact that the Capitals will not make the playoffs should force Washington to address this problem. Is it possible that they will be considering the fact of trading the leagues leading scorer? It is a possibility, and it just may be the best move that the Capitals could make. Players don’t change their ways, especially if they do not feel the need to. The longer they hang on to a defensive liability the more his stock will fall. Teams don’t want, and can’t afford to have defensive liabilities. Ask Edmonton how the stock of Nail Yakupov has dropped since his defensive woes. Edmonton should have moved him early in the season to receive a premium return, but that did not happen. Is Washington willing to watch the return for Ovechkin continue to drop?
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