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WASHINGTON, DC – Before joining the Washington Capitals this season, T.J. Oshie had his preconceptions about the way Alex Ovechkin played. Which essentially meant he saw the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner as a puck-hogging, shoot-at-all-costs sniper, like many others do.
After spending some time as Ovechkin’s linemate this preseason, Oshie’s actually been surprised by the captain’s generosity.
“He’s actually a really unselfish player. From the outside looking in, you don’t really see that. But he’s always looking for me and telling me to shoot the puck more often,” said Oshie.
Barry Trotz chuckled at Ovechkin’s magnanimity. “That’s unheard of, isn’t it? Usually Ovi wants the puck and he’s shooting it,” he said.
“They’re both great passers. Everyone thinks Ovi is a great goal-scorer, great shooter, has some great moves, but they both are exceptional passers as well.”
Oshie is likely to begin the season with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, unless Nicklas Backstrom is back from injury to take his No. 1 center slot between the wingers.
The question, then, is what Oshie can do next to the two most talented offensive players with whom he’s ever skated.
His best point total in seven years with the St. Louis Blues was 60, achieved in 2013-14 in 79 games. That’s the only season he’s cracked 20 goals in the NHL, too.
“He played a lot of times with Alex Steen and David Backes. They were just a good, high-skilled line. They go head-to-head a lot of times – as much as they were an offensive line, they were a defensive line,” said Trotz, who coached against Oshie with frequency when he was behind the Nashville Predators’ bench.
Oshie appeared to have a statistic ceiling with the Blues; could playing with Ovechkin finally break open his offense?
“He probably can do more than [he has],” said Trotz. “I think there’s a little more of a higher ceiling here. Our power play has produced at a lot higher level than in St. Louis over the last few years. And now he gets to play with a mega-star like Ovi. He’s not going to get as much attention as he was in St. Louis, because everyone’s going to focus on Ovi.”
Oshie has already seen a bit more open ice thanks to the attention his linemate receives.
“Just from playing against him, you always need to know where he is on the ice. Some teams adjust their entire penalty kill for him,” he said.
That said, it’s Ovechkin. You have to play with him, understand where he’s going and where he needs you to be. It hasn’t become second nature to Oshie, yet.
“I still find myself thinking a little bit too much on the ice, trying to make sure I’m in the right place instead of just playing,” he said.
But it’s all been an adjustment for Oshie, who was traded to the Capitals during the summer in a multi-player swap that involved Troy Brouwer. He was a career Blue – this is his first NHL training camp since his rookie season where he walked into the room and didn’t know the majority of the faces.
“It was hard learning everyone’s name, learning where to go in locker rooms and systems,” he said. “But it’s starting to feel like home for me.”
Well, there was one consistency between the Blues and Capitals: a lack of playoff success. And Oshie said he appreciates the hunger for success he felt from his new teammates the moment he met them.
“You always want your team to be hungry. Even if a team is on their third Cup, they’re still hungry for their fourth. It’s just nice to come to a team that still has that fire to get to the postseason,” he said.
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