PHILADELPHIA – Alex Ovechkin’s answers about his playoff slump were brief. Sure sounds a lot like Washington’s stay in the post-season if the possible MVP can’t quickly rediscover his potent scoring touch.
Is he frustrated by his lack of production? Nope Is the Flyers physical play affecting him? Nah. Would a possible line change help? Hope so.
About the only thing Ovechkin would admit after Wednesday’s practice is that he’s had enough of the losing. Philadelphia owns a 2-1 series lead over the Capitals and Washington, which entered the post-season as one of the hottest teams in the league, has lost consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 23-24 entering Thursday night’s Game 4.
“I’m frustrated we’re losing,” Ovechkin said. “It’s not about scoring, it’s about winning.”
Well, that makes him a giant 0-for-2.
Alex the Great has been more Alex the Ordinary in the first three games of the series. His lone goal is the Game 1 winner, and that came after he was shut down the first 2 1/2 periods, with two assists and only 12 shots on an average of 24:28 of ice time. The 22-year-old Ovechkin had almost no open looks around the net, the kind Flyers centre Danny Briere took advantage of in his two-goal, three-point outing in a Game 3 victory.
Ovechkin, who led the NHL in shots, took only four on Tuesday against goalie Martin Biron.
“Biron’s played well and they didn’t give me space to shoot the puck,” Ovechkin said.
While Ovechkin hardly seems concerned, and isn’t the only reason the Capitals trail in the series, Washington can’t expect to win three more games with another empty game from the NHL’s leading scorer.
“He’s got to do better,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “My history with him is, you can’t keep a good man down. They’re doing a good job on him. Every time he touches the puck, they’re hitting him. He’s got to find a way.”
No surprise the Flyers faithful loved watching Ovechkin neutralized in Game 3. Some fan posted a YouTube video of orange-clad fans banging their inflatable sticks and chanting a one-syllable expletive before “Ovechkin” as they take a celebratory post-game escalator ride.
Any hope Game 4 might have been easier on Ovechkin was dashed when top Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen said he was ready to play. Timonen left the game late in the second period after he slammed into the net and crashed his right shoulder against the camera mounted in the net.
Timonen has been stuck on Ovechkin as much as the No. 8 on his sweater. Timonen’s been fantastic at anticipating plays, attacking Ovechkin with the puck and taking away his space to create more of those pretty goals.
Centres Jeff Carter and Mike Richards also have done their share to get in Ovechkin’s face, get him frustrated and get him off his game.
“It’s five guys out there that have to stop the line,” Timonen said.
Ovechkin’s line could have a new look in Game 4. Boudreau shuffled the lines at practice and paired Sergei Federov, the 1994 league MVP and three-time Stanley Cup champ, with Ovechkin and Viktor Kozlov. He put centre Nicklas Backstrom with forwards Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin.
“We lose two games in a row and we have to change something,” Ovechkin said. “We’ll see.”
Boudreau said he wanted to see if the new lines would could create better results, but was noncommittal about sticking with the combinations for Thursday. He’s also disappointed about Washington’s shot selection and accuracy – the Caps are more likely to whack the glass than hear the horn or pop of the goalie’s mitt.
Philadelphia outshot Washington 33-19, including 15-5 in the second period, a sign that the Caps aren’t getting much done around the crease.
The Capitals went 1-for-7 on the power play in Game 3.
“They’re trying to be too cute, too perfect and that’s not the way you succeed,” Boudreau said.
So is trying to win without a potent Ovechkin.
“Sometimes things just don’t go your way,” Richards said. “I’m sure he’s going to turn it around at some point, but hopefully we can keep him below the usual.”