WASHINGTON -- When it came crunch time on Tuesday night for the Washington Capitals, trailing by one with less than a minute to go, Bruce Boudreau put his best line on the ice. That did not include putting Alexander Ovechkin in the game. And wouldn't you know it, Nicklas Backstrom scored on a big rebound to send the game to overtime.
But back to that end of regulation. Coming out of a timeout, Boudreau had just diagrammed a play and pulled his goalie Tomas Vokoun. That's when Ovechkin was ready to jump on the ice, only to be told to take a seat.
As you can see from the video, Ovechkin was saying the right things afterward. But at the time? Well he didn't seem too pleased with the benching, now did he?
The obvious answer is why wouldn't he? Of course he wanted to play and be on the ice in the final minute. If he weren't angry and wanting to play, just taking a benching with disinterest, wouldn't THAT be cause for concern? So he muttered something to himself. Big deal.
Boudreau explained -- quite well, if you ask me -- why Ovechkin wasn't on the ice. Was it due to poor performance?
"You tell me," Boudreau responded. "I got to put out the guys that I think are going to score the goal. Ninety-nine percent of the time Alex is the guy I think is going to score the goal. I just didn't think he was going to score the goal at that time tonight."
Ovechkin responded on Wednesday, explaining he was, indeed frustrated, but supports Boudreau's system of accountability. (Quotes from Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post.)
"I was pissed off. Of course I want to be in that situation on the ice. It was just a little bit frustrating because I’m a leader in the team and I want that kind of responsibility."
As to what he said that was caught on TV?
"It doesn’t matter who I said it, and what I said. It looked funny on TV."
The funny thing is that Boudreau is making a heck of a lot of calls this year, brave ones. He started Michal Neuvirth over Vokoun on opening night. He specifically said Ovechkin needed to be better ... after Game 2 of the season. He split up his stud defensive pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson so they could extend their versatility. Mike Knuble? He's been pushed down to the fourth line. Ol' Bruce has been pushing a lot of buttons, and a lot of them have been the right ones. After all, the Caps are 8-2-0.
Is there big trouble in little China Town, aka Washington (see, Verizon Center is located in D.C.'s China To ... ah forget it)?
Not at all. Feelings might be a little hurt, but that's about it. Boudreau was right, the third line of Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Brooks Laich was excellent not only on Tuesday, but all season long. Oh, and Washington scored the goal. Doesn't that vindicate Boudreau a little bit?
Fact of the matter is that Ovechkin isn't playing the same way that we're used to seeing. Check that. He IS playing the same way we're used to seeing and everybody in the league seems to know what he's going to do before he does. But we aren't seeing him produce the same way. He isn't producing the goals that make you say "wow." He has scored five goals and has five more assists in 10 games, but you can see it isn't coming as easily. The up-ice rushes are shut down nearly every time now with defenders expecting that cutback to center ice and then the shot flying.
That's why this is being blown a bit out of proportion.
If it happens in the next game, then there might be some more there. As of now, Boudreau had a hunch, and his hunch was right.