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Trotz says it's 'on me' to get Ovechkin more playing time

Trotz says it's 'on me' to get Ovechkin more playing time

TORONTO—Capitals coach Barry Trotz says it’s on him to get Alex Ovechkin more playing time.

According to the NHL’s official game sheet, Ovechkin played 22 shifts covering 15:08 in Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. Four Caps forwards skated more overall, and six played more at even strength. Ovechkin played only 4:13 in a crucial third period.

Following an optional practice at the Leafs' facility on Tuesday, Trotz took the blame for Ovechkin's low ice time total. 

“That’s on me to get him the ice time,” Trotz said.

Ovechkin did not skate and was not available to comment.

“Sometimes that’s situational,” Trotz continued. “Sometimes that’s zone starts. His minutes should be…I can get those up.”

The Caps captain averaged 18:22 during the regular season, which was down almost two minutes per game from the previous year as Trotz attempted to manage the 31-year-old's minutes and keep him fresh for the playoffs.

According to hockeyreference.com, Ovechkin’s ice time total Monday night was the second lowest of his playoff career. The other four times he played fewer than 16 minutes came during the 2012 postseason, including a career-low of 13:36.

RELATED: FEAR NOT CAPS FANS, PLAYOFF CHAOS WAS ACROSS THE BOARD ON MONDAY NIGHT

Trotz said Ovechkin’s ice time total in Game 3 was not a reflection of his play. In fact, Trotz praised No. 8, who scored a goal and a team-high five shots on goal. He also logged four hits and two blocked shots.

“It wasn’t based on play,” Trotz said. “I thought Ovi was playing terrific. It’s on me to get him a little more ice time, no question.”

Trotz reiterated that Ovechkin’s playing time had more to do with the flow of the game, his attempt at getting favorable matchups and a preference for starting the top line in the offensive zone.

(It’s also important to note that Ovechkin does not kill penalties, which reduces his playing time. For example, Nicklas Backstrom played 17:30 on Monday, while T.J. Oshie skated 18:37. They, however, saw 1:52 and 1:04 of shorthanded ice time, respectively.)

As far as matchups Monday, Ovechkin saw quite a bit of the Leo Komarov-Nazem Kadri-Connor Brown again. He also faced the Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev defensive pair.

“Sometimes you look at minutes and sometimes they are overstated because you’re out there 20 minutes, but they're not quality minutes,” Trotz said. “His minutes have been hard, quality minutes. I know him and Komarov have been going at it and Zaitsev and [Morgan] Rielly and all that. So he’s targeted. They’re doing their job, just as we’re doing our job on their guys.”

Trotz added: “There’s rhythms in the game. You try to get [Ovechkin] offensive [zone] starts. We’ve got to get a few more offensive starts here and there, too.”

RELATED: CAPITALS' KARL ALZNER RULED OUT FOR GAME 4 AGAINST MAPLE LEAFS

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

Lars Eller did not practice on Monday, and coach Barry Trotz shuffled his injury-depleted defense corps.

Here’s how everyone lined up:

Forwards

Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana

Connolly – Graovac – Wilson

Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson

Walker

Defense

Orpik – Bowey

Djoos – Carlson

Orlov – Chorney

Ness

Goalies

Holtby

Grubauer

RELATED: Caps destroyed by Flyers in lopsided road loss

Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:

  • Trotz said Eller showed up sick and was sent home to recover and avoid spreading whatever he’s got. Trotz also isn’t sure whether the veteran center will be able to suit up against Toronto on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now. We’ll see where his energy level is.”

 

  • The coaching staff shuffled the D-pairs with speedy Toronto coming to town. But Trotz also cautioned not to read too much into the tandems, since they’re likely to change throughout Tuesday’s game. Trotz even hinted that a final decision on which six D-men will suit up had not yet been made. “They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said, referring to the injured Matt Niskanen, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury. “There are pairs for practice. There are pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little bit situational.”

 

  • If defenseman Taylor Chorney does get back into the lineup, he knows that he needs to make a positive impression after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. “I’ve been through this quite a bit over the last couple of years, but at the same time you probably want to make a little bit of a statement,” he acknowledged. “So for me, if I do get the opportunity to play, it would be a big game.”  

 

  • Speaking of the Leafs, they’re off to a 4-1-0 start with Auston Matthews (5 goals, including two OT winners) leading the way. Overall, Toronto is averaging a league-leading 5.2 goals per game. As you might imagine, Trotz had a lot of praise for last season’s first round opponent in general and Matthews specifically. “If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz said. “He’s six-foot-[three]. He skates great. He’s got unbelievable hands. And a hockey I.Q. and he’s strong on the puck.”  

 

  • As Washington attempts to turn the page from Saturday’s 8-2 clunker in Philly, Trotz said one area he’d like to see shored up is the number of shots the Caps have been allowing. Through six games, they’re yielding 34.5 shots on goal per game (tied for ninth most). Last year, they allowed 27.8 (fourth best). “We’re not as structured defensively,” Trotz said. “We haven’t put as big an emphasis this year as we did last year. We’ve put a little more emphasis on trying to replace some of the goals that we lost. But right now we have to get a little more balance. …We have to get that back into balance; we practiced some of that today.”

 

  • As you may remember, Madison Bowey’s father, Will, jumped on the first flight out of British Columbia that he could find in the hopes of catching his son’s NHL debut Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center. As it turned out, though, he experienced a couple of travel delays and didn’t make it. Dad will, however, be in attendance Tuesday night.

 

MORE CAPS: Nicklas Backstrom shines among NHL's top stars

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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom named one of NHL's 3 stars for standout week

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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom named one of NHL's 3 stars for standout week

Nicklas Backstrom has been the Capitals’ best player so far this season, according to coach Barry Trotz. And he was recognized for his play on Monday when the NHL named him third star of the week.

No one had more points over the past week than the Caps’ star center, who racked up three goals and six assists in four games.

Trotz praised Backstrom for his point production — and his play on the other side of the puck.   

“He’s been really good,” Trotz said. “Nick has been all business. He’s playing very well. He’s been our best player, no question, with balance in his game. Nick’s balance in his game is really good—on my soap box again—and that’s what makes him one of the best two-way centermen in the National Hockey League. ”

RELATED: Andre Burakovsky's first NHL fight

Last season, Backstrom didn’t get his third goal until the 16th game (en route to a 23-goal campaign). In six games this season, the 29-year-old has three goals and eight helpers.

First star of the week was Winnipeg winger Nikolaj Ehlers (five goals, two assists), while Toronto center Auston Matthews (four goals, including two OT winners) received second star honors.

On Tuesday at Capital One Arena, it’ll be second star versus third star as Matthews and the Leafs take on on Backstrom’s Caps.

MORE CAPS: How the Caps flopped in Philly