WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin bemoans the fact that this is the second time in three years there’s been a coaching change for the Capitals.
Albeit, this time, it’s far more radical for the Russian sniper because Adam Oates has completely revamped the system in Washington as the Flyers visit the Caps on Friday night (see game notes).
It’s not Bruce Boudreau or Dale Hunter. It’s more like what Flyers coach Peter Laviolette employs: pressure the puck. It creates offense from defense.
Defense? Did someone say defense and Ovie?
That’s a bit foreign for a 27-year-old offensive machine who has scored 50 or more goals four times in his seven full NHL seasons but had a miserable campaign last year (19 goals) and is again struggling during the lockout-shortened season with just two goals and a minus-3 rating through seven games.
He’s not shooting the puck enough either, with just 22 shots overall. Hey, Danny Briere had 10 alone against the Rangers on Tuesday in New York.
Oates and Ovie sat down for two hours to talk hockey and systems on Wednesday in Toronto, according to Yahoo.com.
Among the issues discussed was his transition from left wing to right wing, where Oates feels his right-hand shot will make it easier to initiate offense off the fly coming into the zone.
“Our system is very fast-paced and it’s very in-your-face in the NHL, and there's no room,” Oates told Yahoo.
“We're becoming more and more like football, so it's very difficult. There's no openings, so you can't give them an opening. That's kind of what I'm showing him. But in fairness to him, it's still a growing process.”
Anyone who has seen Ovechkin play knows full well he weaves throughout the ice and really has no set forward position. How he comes into the zone should be inconsequential for someone of his ability.
The Caps are in worse shape than the Flyers at 1-5-1, mired in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Brooks Laich has yet to play this season because of a groin pull.
Oates’ crew just dropped two games in Canada, falling to Toronto on Thursday, 3-2, after previously losing in Ottawa.
Always a legitimate threat on the power play, Ovechkin has become less so at even strength. He has not scored a five-on-five goal in his last 10 games, going back to the 2012 playoffs last spring.
The Flyers aren’t having difficulty keeping the score down at even strength this season. What’s been hurting them is their special teams, which means Friday’s game could easily work in Ovechkin’s favor if it again becomes one where the Flyers’ besieged penalty kill units have to spend significant time on the ice.
In 26 career games against the Flyers, Ovechkin has 23 goals and 15 assists. That said, the Flyers have won five of the last seven contests against the Capitals.