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More Rest for Ovechkin

One day after Alex Ovechkin was given the day off from practice, he also was not on the ice for this morning's pregame skate. He came to Bell Centre, but left the building shortly after his teammates went on the ice.

Ovechkin's not hurt. He says he's not tired or worn down or frustrated by his offensive slump (he's scored only one goal in his past seven games). He's simply taking a break from the daily routine, according to Coach Glen Hanlon. And it's something fans can expect more over the final 23 games this season, as Hanlon and his staff more closely monitor their star winger's practice time.

I think it's a great idea.

In addition to skating more than 21 minutes a night on average (and they are hard minutes), Ovechkin has to shoulder a lot of other demands from media, sponsors and the like. At times over the past two seasons, I'll admit, he's seemed a tad overburdened for a 21-year-old living out his dream, particularly lately.

"We sat down and talked and decided we wanted him to get away from [the rink] and come back [for the game]," Hanlon said. "I just told him that I needed him to go full bore tonight."

"What happens here--you know him as well as I do--he'll work himself into a frenzy here if we're not careful," Hanlon added. "He's had zero break this season. The All-Star Game was more work than a pleasure for him. I'm not even sure he's going to practice the rest of the year."

I asked Hanlon if the "break" he was referring to was a mental or a physical one, and he responded: "I think it's both. It's one less time for him to put his skates on. The reason I'm saying this is because I don't want that every time he's not on the ice for it to be a full story. Is he hurt? Does he have groin? Does he have a bad neck? It's not; he just plays a lot of hockey."

The only thing that concerns me is this: Hockey players are creatures of routine. It's going to be interesting what effect the reduction--or elimination--of practice time will have on Ovechkin.

Thoughts?

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  February 20, 2007; 1:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

Sounds like an excellent idea, with a thoughtful coach. I think he has been overburdened with so much for such a young man. And, he should have more energy and be more fired off if he can prepare both mentally and physically for the games, and not have to go through the practice. While he may be getting special treatment, he is a special player, and this is a very important time in his career, which needs to be managed and handled carefully.

Posted by: kenhockey | February 20, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Hat trick for AO tonight. I called it a few hours ago before this blog post and I still stick by it.

Big night for AO tonight.

Posted by: CP | February 20, 2007 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Hat trick for AO tonight. I called it a few hours ago before this blog post and I still stick by it.

Big night for AO tonight.

Posted by: CP | February 20, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

CP-

As my mother would say,

From your mouth to God's ears!

Let's just hope we get a win tonight.

Posted by: kenhockey | February 20, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Anybody hear anything more on the Eminger trade rumour?

Posted by: Curious | February 20, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Good for Ovie and Hanlon. The one thing that really came across in the WP piece is that he is certainly carrying a heavy load in terms of media events and being the "face" of the Caps.

Hope this does not lead to any prima donna rumors in the league.

Posted by: LB | February 20, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Based upon Hanlon's and Olie's comments several days ago, I figured they'd have him doing extra practice blocking shots and playing defense because lord knows the last thing we need is a guy who likes to rush up ice and score goals like Martin St Louis (or the old Ovechkin). We need more "defense-first" grinders like Sutherby, Bradley, etc.

/sarcasm

Posted by: Sapper | February 20, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I've been thinking about his slump lately and wondering about ways it could be addressed. I think a break sounds like a good idea, at least as good an idea as I could come up with short of making trades to surround him with better talent or reworking the team's schemes.

I think he needs to be more creative with the puck and more willing to take chances in the face of the all-out "stop Ovechkin" game plans he's up against. Why he seems to be doing less exciting, chancey things with the puck this season probably stems from a combination of pressure, team talent, improved opposing defenses, increased defensive responsibility and the psychology of a sophomore season. He's backchecking much better this season, but he's also making fewer moves around defenders. Hopefully a break from some stuff away from games will help him have an easier time carrying most everything on the ice.

Posted by: false_cause | February 20, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Hat trick for OVECHKIN tonight!

Posted by: Finn | February 20, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I really wished we had signed Peca in the offseason.

Posted by: CapCrazy | February 20, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Caps will score 1 maybe 2 goals

Posted by: thetruth | February 20, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

3 for Ovechkin, 2 for Semin... 4 goals for the Canadiens though

Posted by: Finn | February 20, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I think that the whole team is perhaps feeling the burden of the playoffs slipping away from them. It wouldn't surprise me to see Coach Hanlon schedule something away from the ice for the whole team to enjoy as a way to forget about the team slump and individual slumps that they are having.

Posted by: Mike | February 20, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Ovechkin could use the rest, I'm sure. And I think him playing better defense and making sounder decisions in the offensive zone is great. Keep in mind Jari Kurri was an excellent back-checker which was a great help to the Oilers in their playoff runs. I don't think his offense was hurt too much, judging by his totals.
Ovechkin is in a slump, and slumps happen. I think the offense has gotten stale. Defenses have learned to adjust to him and his line. I think he would benefit from moving around the lineup a bit.
I also don't think people realize the role Kris Beech plays on that second line with Semin. I think Semin's slump may be due in part to Beech being off his line. Beech's totals may not be stellar, but his offensive role isn't limited to points. Still, he's 6th on the team in points and second among team centers only to Zubrus. If Hanlon is going to scratch Clymer for more offense, why doesn't he dress Beech?

PS - Mike Peca is overrated, dirty, and hurt. I'll pass.

Posted by: Green Machine | February 20, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I'd say let Ovechkin do whatever he wants in the offensive zone and do whatever comes naturally without thinking about the defensive zone too much. I think this season he is thinking too much defense thus scoring less.

Posted by: OvchkinFan | February 20, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Green Machine,

You make a good point.

I also don't think people realize the role Kris Beech plays on that second line with Semin. I think Semin's slump may be due in part to Beech being off his line. Beech's totals may not be stellar, but his offensive role isn't limited to points. Still, he's 6th on the team in points and second among team centers only to Zubrus. If Hanlon is going to scratch Clymer for more offense, why doesn't he dress Beech?

Tarik: what do you think?

Posted by: LB | February 20, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Funny,, I was just wondering after the penns game how long untill ov gets hurt. I didnt say it or post it cause I didnt want to jinx him. I guess Glen was thinking the same thing. I think its a very good idea to "rest" him, I also think the off ice get-together that Mike purposed above is a good idea. these guys seam to have put a ton of pressure on themselves to make the playoffs this year and im sure its wearing them all a little thin now knowing that it aint gonna happen.

Posted by: LIVINIT | February 20, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Any word on who's starting in goal tonight?

Posted by: hcky4nick | February 20, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Hmm... A hockey phenom not practicing anymore because of the pressure imposed from extra-curricular events. I think that what Ovie needs is to do less press stuff. Neither ovie nor Crosby need to be the NHL's saviors. Screw Bettman for using them like that. They are young men, hardly past boyhood, and have to salvage the league because a bunch of high brows think they know what they're doing; before anyone debates that, reflect upon the glowing puck for a moment before posting.

I'd like to see ovechkin praticing with the team and working on plays, like some of the pretty passing I have seen in Pens highlights the last few days and the nice action going on between Boston and Philly on Monday night. I never see the Caps do anything like that and that is what they should be practicing together. They need clinic work everyday on where to pass the puck, and how to get it onto a stick blade rather than a heel, etc. Ovie needs work on it just like everyone else, too. He isn't the greatest passer.

That said, Glen knows best. Its too bad that the Caps have saddled Ovie with saving the franchise in conjunction with the NHL's horseriding. Someone should say "no" for Ovie so that he doesn't have to and he can just focus on practice and game time, not commercials and interviews and media matters, especially in Montreal.

I will admit, more blatantly, that I don't claim to know the best route. Again, Hanlon is likely correct given that Ovie can't shirk the responsibilities layed upon him. But, does anyone agree with what I'm saying, or even se where I'm coming from? Fans? Tarik? Trolling management? Anyone?

Posted by: Kerplunk | February 20, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't see the game from where I am.. down 1-0 right now.. lemme guess -- Caps couldn't clear the zone (again)?

Posted by: Oneal | February 20, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

end of first period...
Montreal - 3
Caps - naaah who cares anymore

Posted by: wanggo | February 20, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse

OK, here's my concern. I've been a cap fan for as long as I can remember and this team can just not get over the hump. Is it karma? Bad luck? Bad timing? This team has had good personnel over the years only to fall short time and time again. The team has almost always been condsidered an afterthought by the league. Sports analysts seem to never give the caps any credit, even when the deserve it. I'll be honest, after the debacle that was the Jaromir Jagr era I was almost ready to hang it up on my favorite sport. I figured if we couldn't get some wins and some positive press with the then best player in the league, why even bother watching anymore? Then along came AO. I was riveted, I was hooked. The caps had finally hit the jackpot. This was the thing we'd been lacking all these years. A franchise player the likes of Gretzky or Lemieux. This guy was for real. He could bring the caps back from the brink. Last season I knew we would be bad, but I also knew that AO had the Calder all sewed up. Let's face it the kid is awesome. I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel. Then something strange happened (or should I say was expected). The caps continued to lose. At the rate they are going now they are likely not to improve very much over their record from last year. Meanwhile, the other phenom, the proverbial "chosen one" Sidney Crosby is leading the leauge in points while his young and relatively inexperienced team is surging in the standings and will easily make the playoffs this year. Worst to first possibly. What is it about the Pens? Are they really that much better than us? What do they have that we don't? Better press coverage? More positive energy? How do you explain the point difference between our clubs? I mean, this was the worst team in the league last year. What gives? I don't know if skipping practice is going to help Ovechkin or not, but I do know this....eventually (and I would predict very soon, possibly within a year) this young man is going to be tired of losing when he sees the likes of Crosby, Staal and Malkin making runs in the playoffs when he feels that he should be there to. And lets be honest...he should be in the playoffs. He deserves much better than to be stagnating on a team that either can't or won't take that extra step. If ownership doesn't do something quickly to try and right this ship I can assure you that Ovie will be looking for the closest lifeboat to take him to more promising shores.

Posted by: Jenkida | February 20, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

OK, here's my concern. I've been a cap fan for as long as I can remember and this team can just not get over the hump. Is it karma? Bad luck? Bad timing? This team has had good personnel over the years only to fall short time and time again. The team has almost always been condsidered an afterthought by the league. Sports analysts seem to never give the caps any credit, even when the deserve it. I'll be honest, after the debacle that was the Jaromir Jagr era I was almost ready to hang it up on my favorite sport. I figured if we couldn't get some wins and some positive press with the then best player in the league, why even bother watching anymore? Then along came AO. I was riveted, I was hooked. The caps had finally hit the jackpot. This was the thing we'd been lacking all these years. A franchise player the likes of Gretzky or Lemieux. This guy was for real. He could bring the caps back from the brink. Last season I knew we would be bad, but I also knew that AO had the Calder all sewed up. Let's face it the kid is awesome. I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel. Then something strange happened (or should I say was expected). The caps continued to lose. At the rate they are going now they are likely not to improve very much over their record from last year. Meanwhile, the other phenom, the proverbial "chosen one" Sidney Crosby is leading the leauge in points while his young and relatively inexperienced team is surging in the standings and will easily make the playoffs this year. Worst to first possibly. What is it about the Pens? Are they really that much better than us? What do they have that we don't? Better press coverage? More positive energy? How do you explain the point difference between our clubs? I mean, this was the worst team in the league last year. What gives? I don't know if skipping practice is going to help Ovechkin or not, but I do know this....eventually (and I would predict very soon, possibly within a year) this young man is going to be tired of losing when he sees the likes of Crosby, Staal and Malkin making runs in the playoffs when he feels that he should be there to. And lets be honest...he should be in the playoffs. He deserves much better than to be stagnating on a team that either can't or won't take that extra step. If ownership doesn't do something quickly to try and right this ship I can assure you that Ovie will be looking for the closest lifeboat to take him to more promising shores.

Posted by: Jenkida | February 20, 2007 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't think AO is "inured" per say, but I don't doubt that he has some nicks and bruises that could use the time to heal up. At this point, it's likely the playoofs are gone. The injuries in December just plain killed us for so long. That being said, I don't think this is a bad team. They've played their butts off and even with Olie out they've rarely gone down easy. This is the kind of stuff that shapes these kids into being great hockey players in the years to come.

I also think that it's time to start looking seriously in the offseason for someone to anchor the blue line. Pothier has bene a steal by all account, and we've made some good moves in picking up Jurchina and callign up who we did from Hershey, as good as we could do, but none of them are a team leader yet. Maybe one will emerge on the line in the next two months, but getting someone experienced could only make things better.

Posted by: EricS | February 20, 2007 11:17 PM | Report abuse

JANUARY 24 - 2006

THE HEADLINE:

"Caps Try To Add Grit to All-Star
Progress on Defense Is Key for Ovechkin"

In this article, the man who has single-handedly given hope to Caps fans like myself, is ripped by Kolzig, Hanlon, McPhee and even Mark Messier(!) for not playing enough DEFENSE.

Since January 24:

The Caps are 3-7-2
Ovechkin has five goals and two assists. 7 points in those 12 games.

Coincidence?

You don't try to impose a b-s "system" on the most talented player this team has ever seen.

Does anyone remember the defensive "system" Pittsburgh used back in Lemieux's day? It was all about chipping the puck down the ice just easily enough to avoid icing. It's easy, it's brilliant, it let that team's super-stars be super-stars, and it helped win two Stanley Cups.

The way things are going I could hardly blame Ovechkin if he wants to walk after next season. And I thought losing when we had Jagr was rock bottom.

Posted by: Oneal | February 21, 2007 1:23 AM | Report abuse

Stick a fork in them, they're done. I am now wondering about why I'm shelling out over $3,000 for 2 weekend seats for next year. They are one of the most frustrating teams to watch I have ever witnessed. How long are we supposed to continue to endure this?

Posted by: kenhockey | February 21, 2007 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Hanlon is beginning to sound like Joe Gibbs with the daily excuses. It does get old after a while. Granted he can't play for them, but how many times can youth and inexperience be used as an excuse for losing? This team will be lucky to get as many points this year as they did last year. I hope GMGM down in Naples is having a great time, and maybe he'll secure some talent for this team. But it does seem that management is bullet proof, so why worry about job security. If Ted wants to sell more seats, he needs to have a better product. Basic business.

Posted by: kenhockey | February 21, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Not sure you can blame Hanlon for that totally bizarre first period. How many 4-on-3 PPs did the Habs get?

Posted by: tallbear | February 21, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Like I said, you can't blame Hanlon for those types of on-ice problems. But what types of drills are worked on in practice?
What kind of leadership does Hanlon show?
Is he a good coach? I don't know myself.
I'd love others opinions. What about McPhee? What kind of job has he done?

Posted by: kenhockey | February 21, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

"How long are we supposed to continue to endure this?"

well, I've been enduring it since 74! :-P

Posted by: BrdSmudgr | February 21, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

The team needs to be moved to Northern Virginia, get their own building andstop the curse.
Give Ovechkin some talent around him. "Next year" will not fly anymore. With all due respect to Backstrom, who knows how good the kid is going to be? Look at the players in the NHL. Samsonov is an excellent player, but he just can't play in Montreal. He played fantastic for the Bruins. Thus, he has to find his team. Who knows if the Caps' are Backstrom's team?
I am sure it is as tough as it gets for Ovechkin to motivate himself when inside he knows the team is a loser. There's so far you can go on enthusiasm alone. This player wants to WIN! This word doesn't really associate with the Washington Capitals. So what's wrong with Ovechkin? He is a Cap.

Posted by: OvechkinFan | February 21, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I've been enduring this since '74 myself.
Guess if one goes in with the attitude that they will never amount to much, have the occasional star or two, and win maybe 30-40 games a year, I can deal with it.
It's the expectations game that drives me over the edge. I hate to accept mediocrity, but this team and ownership seems to thrive on it.

Posted by: kenhockey | February 21, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Last season Hanlon said that instead of two 82 game seasons, there would be "1 journey of 164." So what we're seeing is that Ovechkin can only carry the team for about 120 or so games, and thats just to be able to compete.

More talent = wins

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Posted by: Roy | March 7, 2007 9:47 PM | Report abuse

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