April 20, 2009
With the way the New York Rangers have Alexander Ovechkin (zero goals in two games) figured out in their first-round series against the Washington Capitals, it's understandable that the League's leading goal-scorer might opt for some drastic measures.
Like, for example, the unusual decision to watch the Rangers' skate this morning from the bench at Madison Square Garden. DC Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg offers the details from Manhattan:
This, several veterans said, was slightly unusual. Then they buzzed again, when Ovechkin was tapped on the shoulder by a Caps' PR staffer and abruptly left.
Rangers boss John Tortorellaa Rangers official had apparently asked Ovechkin to vacate the bench. The Caps PR folks offered Ovie a seat in the stands instead. He declined.
It's not exactly unusual for opposing players to watch the enemy practice. Doing it from the bench, however, is exceptionally rare.
(UPDATE -- Ovie on BenchGate: "I just [wanted] Tortorella [to get ticked] off -- and he was." Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post now reports that "Tortorella was not aware of Ovechkin sitting on the bench, which, he said, is against league rules. A team trainer actually requested that Ovechkin leave the bench." So we've got ourselves an unfortunate game of telephone thanks to the initial reporting.)
Obviously a bit of gamesmanship at play here; there's really nothing Ovechkin would see during the morning skate that he couldn't see on tape from the Rangers' wins in Games 1 and 2. But hey, if Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers' defense can get inside Ovie's head, why not try to flip the script at the morning skate?
We'll have more later today in a Game 3 preview, but here's the bottom line: The Rangers have not only managed to block 17 of Ovechkin's shots, but they've slowed his comet-like rushes into the zone and crammed his space on the ice to affect his shooting accuracy on goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Ovechkin's numbers in the Capitals' wins and losses this season tell you everything about why the Rangers are playing at home tonight with a 2-0 series lead:
Ovechkin in 49 Wins: 46 goals, 37 assists plus-30, .148 shooting percentage
Ovechkin in 30 Losses: 10 goals, 17 assists, minus-22, .046 shooting percentage
They need an MVP performance from the MVP tonight. There's really no alternative.