If there was any doubt over how much Alex Ovechkin would play this season under new coach Adam Oates it was wiped away Saturday night in the Capitals’ 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Capitals’ 27-year-old captain logged 23 minutes, 35 seconds of ice time, highest among all forwards for both teams.
Playing right wing on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, Ovechkin saw 15:18 of even-strength time, 7:08 in power-play time and 69 seconds of shorthanded time. What did he do with those 25 shifts?
Ovechkin attempted eight shots. Three of them missed the net and one was blocked. However, most of those attempts came from the left faceoff circle, where Ovechkin was positioned during the Caps’ four power plays.
“I felt pretty good,” Ovechkin said after Saturday’s loss. “We had a chance to get a power play right away and had a couple of good opportunities, but my shots went high and the goalie [6-foot-6 Anders Lindback] played well. I just have to make good on those chances right away.”
Ovechkin also drew a holding penalty on Lightning defenseman Sami Salo late in the second period but had that negated when he spun on the ice and raised his hands for a penalty to be called.
“The referees was not in the game,” Ovechkin said. “It was hard for them. They missed a couple penalties on our side and their side.”
Because of all of the power play time, it was hard to get an accurate read on how Ovechkin handled his duties as a right wing. He did swing away from a potential rebound goal in the third period and failed to record a shot on goal in the final 20 minutes. Defensively, Ovechkin often found himself drifting to the left side of the ice, a habit he says he needs to break.
As for his timing, Ovechkin said that is also a work in progress.
“Especially playing the right side,” he said. “It was kind of a new thing for me but the power play was a huge moment for us in that first period and we have to score right away and get the momentum on our side. It’s the first game and I’m looking forward to the next one.”