Why the Benching of Alex Ovechkin is Not a Controversy

The Washington Capitals managed to rebound from a worrisome road-trip and triumph over the Anaheim Ducks in Washington on Tuesday night, but created more causes for concern in the process. The first half of the game was sloppy and unorganized at best, with Anaheim notching three goals before Washington could respond with their own. The Caps were able to rally, and score a late third period goal to send the game into overtime, where Nicklas Backstrom scored the game winner three minutes into the fourth period.

Despite the obvious holes in Washington’s defense and general lack of motivation for the first 30 minutes, the topic that everybody is talking about is Alexander Ovechkin’s unusual absence from the ice in the critical points of the game.

Ovechkin didn’t see a shift in the final three minutes of regulation, a time when the Russian usually flourishes. Instead, Coach Bruce Boudreau opted to go with his second and third lines, which is a completely justifiable decision.

Boudreau has demonstrated time and again that he isn’t afraid to be bold, and generally doesn’t care about media backlash. Last night he was of the opinion that his captain was not playing to his potential, and there were other players more deserving of ice time. And would you look at that, he was right. There’s a reason he’s the coach. With roughly a minute left in the third period, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, and Jason Chimera were sent out, and Backstrom joined them when the Caps pulled Tomas Vokoun from his net.

This line had stellar production against the Ducks, each of them with a plus/minus rating of +3, and seven points collectively. This isn’t a calamity; this was easy math for Boudreau.

The Ovechkin we all know and love will be back. He just had an off game, and Boudreau played the guys who were on form. This shouldn’t be a reason to panic. On the contrary, it should be cause for celebration. The Capital’s depth is exactly what will allow them to win in tight spots. In previous years, when Ovechkin wasn’t performing, there was a short list of guys who could step up and fill his shoes. Now the Capitals have multiple lines that are more than capable of going out and taking care of business.

I would much rather have a complete team that is playing deep into the spring then one guy who scores 80 goals in a season. But maybe I’m old-fashioned.

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