Barring a big finish from Alexander Edler, Alex Ovechkin is poised to become the first player in NHL history to win the Rocket Richard trophy and finish dead last in plus/minus at the same time.
Admittedly, plus/minus is something of a junk stat -- you can earn a plus or a minus without truly earning it at all. But when you're at the bottom of the league in the category, despite scoring 50 goals, it'll bring your defensive effort into question.
So to will having your coach call it out, as Adam Oates did Wednesday, the morning after the Capitals' 5-0 loss to the Dallas Stars. From CSN Washington:
In a post-practice press conference than lasted 17 minutes, Oates voiced his displeasure with his players’ individual efforts Tuesday night, calling out Alex Ovechkin on one of Dallas’ goals and Mike Green relaxing on another.
“Ovi quit on the play, coming back,” Oates said, referring to the Stars’ fourth goal midway through the third period, when Ovechkin coasted through the neutral zone, allowing Alex Chaisson to use a burst of speed to fly past him and feed Dustin Jeffrey for his second goal of the night. “It just goes to show you gotta hustle the whole time. The whole, entire time.”
Is Oates' assessment of the play correct? Pretty much. Take a look:
Ovechkin is hardly in the frame for this goal, but you can spot him at the beginning and the end of the sequence. That's him drifting through the neutral zone as the Stars cross the Capitals' blue line. He's completely checked out. The next time you see him, he's waving at Ray Whitney, who realized Ovechkin was asleep on his feet and hit the gas, blowing by him to break through the middle of the zone for a wide-open feed.
That's a terrible play by Ovechkin, and while he scores a lot, he doesn't deserve to get a pass here for letting Whitney get a pass here. (Credit to Whitney, too. Watch the second replay: he actually cycles around behind Ovechkin to skate in Ovi's blind spot. By the time Ovechkin sees him, he's at full speed, and he's got the puck.)
But let's not blame Ovechkin entirely. You can't let that happen to you, but his mental lapse is just one of many on this play.
This is a 2-on-3. Why is there so much open ice through the middle of the zone? Because rather than stay high, which would have been the sensible thing to do, Jay Beagle heads to the boards to help out on Alex Chiasson.
And let's not forget Mikhail Grabovski, who is also coasting through the zone as Whitney comes flying in, and doesn't even bother to wave at him. He doesn't take a single stride after crossing the blue line.
Basically, it's abysmal defensive coverage all across the board, so while Ovechkin deserves a lot of blame, when your whole team is defending this terribly, the blame starts to shift to the guy in charge.
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