Canadiens on stopping Ovechkin
As you might have heard, Alex Ovechkin had zero shots on goal in Game 1 against the Canadiens. That was after leading the league in shots this season, despite missing 10 games, averaging more than five shots a game. That gave him 90 more shots than any of his teammates. The AP reported that this was the first time in 418 career games that Ovechkin had neither a shot nor a point in an NHL game.
And his coach explicitly called him out during the post-game, saying "He didn't play good. They gapped on real well on him but I don't think Alex played very well....They took him away pretty good but I just didn't think he was very good tonight.""
Over in the Montreal dressing room, as you might have guessed, the feeling was sort of different. Jaroslav Spacek, a man who shared the ice with Ovechkin for much of the night, credited his own team with collapsing on Ovechkin, blocking his chances and getting up in his face.
"He was playing good," Spacek said. "His shots didn't get through, that's the problem, but I think we did a great job against their first line all night long. We didn't give them too much space. If he will be shooting from the blue line, he's probably not that effective. And we had the guys to step up on him all the time. So when you see the third guy, fourth guy coming back, that's even better for our defensemen."
Spacek remained fixated on Ovechkin even when he was answering questions. One reporter tried to ask a question about the whole Caps' offense being sort of back on their heels in the second period, but Spacek thought he was just talking about Ovechkin.
"He's one of the greatest players in the NHL," Spacek said. "You've got to give him respect, you know, but you don't want to give him that much respect. You try to battle him hard, and you know his pluses and minuses, and the guy has more pluses than minuses. You're gonna just go after him. If you're gonna check him, finish the checks, play really close to him. Nobody likes that type of game."
Ovechkin wound up with those five blocked shots, plus three that were off-target. Of the Capitals, only Mike Knuble and Alex Semin had more total attempts. Still, it seemed to a lot of observers that Ovechkin was nearly invisible for great stretches, despite logging nearly eight minutes of power-play time.
"You know, he had zero shots but he had probably 10 blocked shots from all our guys," Spacek said. "He tried hard to go for it, and the whole [first] line I think played pretty good. They had a couple chances, especially on the power play. I think we tried to step up on him, play closed gap, and that was probably the reason he didn't have much success on the shots.
"He's waiting for his chance. You've got to be still watching him all the time. You give him one little sniff and the puck end up in our net. I think we played focused game on him all night long, and we didn't give that line too many opportunities on the rush. I think that was the biggest key."
And yet, the overtime period was an up-and-down affair. Yes, the Canadiens got the better of much of that, and obviously wound up winning, but that doesn't seem like the game they want to play.
"The overtime was end-to-end," Mike Cammalleri said. "There wasn't much stalemate."
I asked him if they really wanted to play that way with the Caps.
"No," he admitted, "but you don't really have a choice when Semin's toe-dragging and Backstrom's flying and Ovechkin's flying. I mean, these guys are some of the best players in the world, so you're not gonna shut them down completely, you're not gonna play the whole game without them getting [chances]."
"Nobody wants to play open game with Washington," Andrei Markov agreed. "Everybody knows they have a great offense, so we tried to play a tight game, and that's what we did tonight. That give us the result."
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