PHILADELPHIA -- Whether it’s dropping defenseman Andrew MacDonald with his cannon slap shot and knocking Sean Couturier out of the series with a menacing shoulder into the boards in Game 1 or checking Brayden Schenn into his own players’ bench to start Game 2, Alex Ovechkin is having a large impact on the Capitals’ first-round series against the Flyers, even if it isn’t coming on the scoreboard.
“I think it’s a time when you have to not just score goals and do some offensive stuff, but you have to set the tone in different ways,” Ovechkin said Monday, prior to the Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center (6 p.m., Pregame Livce, CSN). “Physical game, smart play in the neutral zone, offensive zone, defensive zone, it doesn’t matter which area.
“It’s part of my game and I have to lead the way in that category and the boys are going to follow me.”
Remember those last seven words. At 30 years old, Ovechkin seems ready to heave the Capitals onto his broad shoulders and carry them, not so much with goals – although he had a big power-play blast to give the Caps a 3-1 lead in Game 2 – but with his will. In the first two games against the Flyers Ovechkin recorded a team-high 11 hits, with seven of them coming in Game 2.
“I think Alex is a physical player at the best of times, but in playoff time everything’s amped up and there’s no question he’s more physical,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s a big body (6-foot-3, 239 pounds), he can skate; he’s a force.
“That’s why I say Alex is unique in this game because he’s one of the purest snipers in the game and he’s got the physical element. Not too many people in the league can even match it. He’s a weapon for us that’s a difference maker.”
Just ask Schenn.
“He’s 230 pounds that skates fast and can score goals," Schenn said. "But I think we can still do a better job (on him). I don’t think we’ve given him a whole lot 5-on-5, but he’s dangerous on the power play. He got his one chance (Saturday) night on the power play, and he made the most of it. ... He just stands there and waits for his one-timer.”
Schenn probably has the bruises to show Ovechkin does more than just wait for one-timers, but the Caps' captain is not done just yet.
Ovechkin said the Capitals will be up against their biggest challenge of the series in tonight’s Game 3 and said the Caps need to use the emotion in the building “to our advantage.” He also agrees with Trotz’s assertion the Caps have not yet played their best game of the series, which continues with Game 4 on Wednesday.
“We didn’t play our best game,” he said. “I think we took too many penalties (six in Game 2). We have to stay focused on playing 5-on-5 and use our power play. We can’t have five or six penalties in a game.”