WASHINGTON -- A sleepy game between the Capitals and Montreal Canadiens changed in the second period with a massive hit Alex Ovechkin delivered to Jonathan Drouin in what would turn into a 5-2 loss for the Capitals.
Observations from the loss
The Ovechkin hit looked clean
Montreal was displeased when Ovechkin nailed Drouin with a crushing hit that sent him to the ice and to the locker room for the remainder of the second period. They seemed to think it was dirty. Ovechkin disagreed. Here's what I saw.
Drouin had just dropped the puck back so he was certainly eligible to be hit. Ovechkin enters the defensive zone and is gliding in a straight line directly towards the goal. He only turns at about the slot and knocks Drouin at the faceoff dot. Rule 42.1 of the NHL Rulebook states "charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner."
The rule does not necessarily exonerate a player for gliding, which one person on Twitter was sure to tell me, but I think that goes towards intent. If you start speeding up going into a hit, it is hard to argue that you didn't mean to hit him that hard. Ovechkin instead glided into the offensive zone, turned, then glided into Drouin. It is impossible to argue Ovechkin was looking for the hit the whole way. He did leave his feet on the hit, but I believe that was more from his own momentum than him trying to launch himself. It did not appear as if he launched himself into Drouin.
Since Ovechkin turned late to go to Drouin, the distance traveled is only from the slot to the faceoff dot. That, to me, is not enough to fit the criteria of "distance traveled" necessary for a charge.
The second thing to look for is whether Ovechkin hit Drouin's head. Rule 48.1 states that an illegal check to the head is one in which "the head was the main point of contact." Ovechkin does appear to make contact with Drouin's head, but it is not the principal point of contact. Ovechkin is hitting through Drouin's body and makes incidental contact.
Even Montreal head coach Claude Julien said Ovechkin did not hit Drouin in the head. He only took issue with Ovechkin leaving his feet.
"I think when people look at it, [Drouin] didn’t get hit in the head," Julien said. "It was just one of those hits where I thought it looked like Ovi might have left his feet there a little bit before the hit."
Regardless of how you feel about the hit, it is not believed any further supplemental discipline will be coming and that is all that really matters in the end.
Bad habits tend to creep into a team's play during a long win/points streak. With things going so well, players can have trouble focusing on fixing those issues in practice. Overconfidence can lead to bad plays.
For the Caps, one issue in particular really began to plague the team as a whole: puck management.
Much like Monday's loss to Arizona, this game was marked by bad turnovers by Washington. Perhaps out of frustration, the Caps were also caught moving up too quickly out of the defensive zone on the breakout. A quick turnover soon caught everyone out of position. This led directly to Montreal's first goal as both John Carlson and Michal Kempny pushed up thinking T.J. Oshie would take the puck out of the zone. Instead, it was a turnover and Phillip Danualt was suddenly behind the defense all by himself in front of Ilya Samsonov.
Those issues must be addressed quickly.
A big hit can spark your team, but it can also go the other way and breathe life into an opponent. The latter happened on Friday as Ovechkin's big hit on Drouin seemed to awaken the Canadiens who scored less than two minutes after the hit and scored four goals in an 8:20 stretch in the second.
SMOKED. pic.twitter.com/9eMP5QD0K3— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 16, 2019
Play of the game
Watch how Evgeny Kuznetsov receives this puck. He knows the pass is coming and has already begun his breakout while keeping an eye on the puck by skating backward. He is then able to seamlessly turn with the puck to move from backward to forward in a fluid motion.
Break, deke, score 🚨 pic.twitter.com/8ld5GPctCJ— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 16, 2019
That is beautiful skating
Good skating is about so much more than being fast. What Kuznetsov is able to do on skates and how he transitions to going to whatever direction he wants, seemingly all at the same speed is art, pure and simple.
Stat of the game
John Carlson notched an assist on Ovechkin's goal for his 31st point of the season. While he may not be doing it with as much fanfare as he had in October, Carlson is still racking up points at a pretty remarkable rate.
With 31 points in 21 games, Carlson is on pace for 121 points over an 82-game season. Only five defensemen in NHL history have recorded more than 100 points in a season (Bobby Orr: six times; Paul Coffey: five times; Denis Potvin, Al MacInnis and Brian Leetch: each once).— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) November 16, 2019
Quote of the game
Ovechkin on his hit to Drouin:
"It's hockey. It's not a ballet."
Caps will seamlessly complete all their passes. :)— Lynn Overmann (@LynnOvermann) November 15, 2019
I know this was meant as more of a joke, but you would have been hard-pressed to pick a game in which you could have been more wrong with this prediction.
ORLY plays as a forward... it won’t happen but it would be fun— Alexandra Sedor (@allie74) November 15, 2019
It wasn't Dmitry Orlov, but Tyler Lewington who got a few looks at forward.
Lewington plays only 6-8 minutes but gets on the scoresheet. https://t.co/HTSAKcg8lk— Hunter Reilly (@HunterReilly) November 15, 2019
Lewington played 8:24 which is more than I thought he would. I thought for sure he would be under eight minutes.https://twitter.com/cris_micelli5/status/1195485367270617089
Nailed it. Washington had only one power play and Ovechkin scored on it.
Leipsic and Vrana both score 9 goals. Price and Stephenson make eye contact and Stephenson turns into stone— communal washington hole (@vranaenae) November 15, 2019
Stephenson didn't turn to stone, just his hands. He had no shots on goal and only one shot attempt.
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