Imagine Albert Pujols getting lifted for a pinch-hitter with the St. Louis Cardinals down by a run in the ninth inning.
Wouldnt happen, right?
So when Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and his 9 million salary were glued to the bench for the final minute of Tuesday nights come-from-behind 5-4 overtime victory sparks were bound to fly, right?
I would expect nothing less, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday. I dont want him to be complacent and say, Oh, thats nice. I think thats what the idea was. Knowing him, hes going to be upset.
Exactly what Ovechkin said to Boudreau as he took a seat on the Capitals bench is open to interpretation, but neither of them seemed particularly sensitive to what Ovechkin said in frustration and neither did any other players.
That was just talk, Ovechkin said when asked about his choice of words. Of course, I want to be on the ice in that situation. It doesnt matter who I said it to or what I said. It looked funny on TV. I dont know. Right now its a big story, but it was just a little bit frustrating because Im a leader on the team and I want that kind of responsibility.
Ovechkin said he has not been benched by a coach late in a close game since he was 14 years old. But he resisted the urge to throw any verbal darts at Boudreau, who has been beating the drum of accountability since the start of training camp.
Its one team and it doesnt matter how good you or who you are, Ovechkin said. If we want to win we have to be on the same page, everybody.
Boudreau and Ovechkin said they had not talked since the incident and neither stressed the need to address the stars benching.
Whether we talk or not I dont know, Ovechkin said. It was frustrating. That kind of situation pissed me off but in that situation he did what was good for the team and I have to respond to that.
Boudreau said he did not know what Ovechkin said to him on the bench and was not bothered by his reaction.
Alex understands and gets it, Boudreau said. Hes a great captain that way. He gets mad because he wants to play and he wants to compete. I remember Maurice Richard would compete and get mad because he was so competitive. The next day hed show up and work harder.
Before his benching, Ovechkin had played a rather ordinary game with no points, four shots, one hit and one blocked shot.
Boudreau said he thought the Capitals had a better chance of tying the score by adding Nicklas Backstrom as an extra attacker on a line with Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera than he would with Ovechkin. Turns out he was right. Backstrom sent the game into overtime when he scored with 42 seconds remaining and won it in overtime on an assist by Ovechkin.
Ive played a lot of hunches in my time that havent worked and nobodys asked me about them, Boudreau said. This one worked. Like I said, 99 percent of the time Alex is the first guy Im looking at. But these guys were going pretty good.
Through 10 games Ovechkin has five goals and five assists, putting him on pace for 41 goals, 41 assists and 82 points. He said he feels like hes been effective this season, but acknowledged he was not at his best Tuesday night.
I had a couple chances, he said. I think in the first period I had one good chance and missed the puck. On one goal (by Anaheim) I tried to read the game but I didnt and my mistake cost us a goal. Everybody has mistakes and I dont know if I should have been on the bench or not.
As for the choice words he had for his coach, Ovechkin said he expects the video clip to get a lot of page views over the next few days, then die out.
Everybodys going to forget about it, he said. Probably crazy fans are laughing at it on Internet on YouTube. But these situations happen all the time. If you say something bad to somebody you can see everybody likes trash talking. It is what it is.