It’s a weird night at the Verizon Center when Alexander Semin finishes with more ice time than Alex Ovechkin.
True, it was only by 47 seconds, and since Ovechkin finished with 21 shifts and Semin only 19, it looks more coincidental than any kind of message being sent from the bench. Semin finished Friday with the longest average shift length on the team (that’s one way to get more ice time–just stay out there).
But it’s just one example of the disjointed 60 minutes that saw the New York Rangers beat the Capitals 6-3, a surprising score for a game that had no goals in the first period.
Another example: Boudreau said after Wednesday night’s game that the Capitals felt they needed to be in the ’30’ range on hits to succeed and play their style. On Friday, the Capitals finished with 40 hits to New York’s 28, yet they lost by three goals. Theoretically, hitting and d-zone coverage should not be mutually exclusive but, by the end of the night, that was the reality for Washington.
And in the latest episode of where in the world will Brooks Laich play next, Friday’s game saw Laich begin as a forward, then switch to defense near the end of the third period. Unfortunately, the Rangers scored just as easily with him on defense, adding their sixth goal of the game.
“We were going with four D, and I didn’t want to kill them, and at that time, Brooks has played D before, so I thought it would give them a rest and maybe add a little offense–we were only down 2, but unfortunately, that backfired,” Boudreau said.
Meanwhile, Friday saw another exchange of roles on the top line for at least one shift. Troy Brouwer’s specialty is creating space with hits. When he plays on the top line, that’s supposed to mean more space for offensive rockstars Ovechkin and Backstrom. But on Friday, it was a beautiful check by Ovechkin that freed the puck and enabled Nicklas Backstrom to make a gorgeous pass that led to a Brouwer goal.
“He made a great play–finished his check. We had talked about it right before we went on the ice for the shift–turn the puck over, and Nicky made a great play,” Brouwer said of Ovechkin. “He’s that type of player. He’s physical. Maybe that role’s been taken off him a bit this year.”
As long as someone gets a goal, it’s a good thing, right? Ovechkin finished the night with 8 hits, easily the team best.
Ovechkin eventually scored a goal of his own, and Nicklas Backstrom finished with two assists. Dmitri Orlov, paired for most of the evening with Karl Alzner, got his second career NHL assist on a power play goal by John Carlson.
The pairing is a slight adjustment for Alzner, too, though he calls Orlov an “NHL-caliber player.”
“I got to make sure I’m really aware out there,” Alzner said, citing the language barrier. “Sometimes I might call something he might not understand. He might think I’m calling for a d to d, and I’m actually calling a rim or something. So it’s just being a little bit more aware on my behalf.”
Overall, it’s probably 60 minutes the Capitals will appreciate putting behind them when they face the Sabres this evening. Brouwer said the team was simply flat and didn’t play with urgency. Perhaps last night’s loss will give them the impetus they need tonight in Buffalo.