Where is Ovechkin?

All the recent talk about Sidney Crosby’s return has left us wondering what happened to Alex Ovechkin.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

He is still in Washington, he is still the captain and he is still one of the most talented players in the NHL.  So then why hasn’t Alex Ovechkin been getting the same amount of attention he’s gotten in the past?

Could it be the recent funk that he has been in, or perhaps it’s the fact that he has yet to lead the Washington Capitals to any substantial playoff run?  Whatever the reason, the attention seems to be off the 26-year-old for the first time in his career and although he is not having the typical Ovechkin-like season, he is still putting up decent numbers.  He’s second on the team in points this season with 15, behind only Niklas Backstrom, while leading the team in goals with 7.  Ovechkin continues to take plenty of opportunities as he is among the league leaders in shot attempts this season with 68 shots on goal, then again he has missed on 33 of those attempts which is the fifth-most.

All of those missed shots could be a big reason why Ovechkin has been getting less ice time as of recently.  In Monday’s 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, he was on the ice for just over 18 minutes despite the fact that he averaged well over 21 minutes a game last season.  That is like taking away a shift and a half from the league’s former top scorer.  But there could be a lot more to it than simply missed shots.

When Ovechkin burst into the league in 2005 he was on one of the league’s worst teams but eventually Washington built around him and he since had to get accustomed to being surrounded with talent that can be just as productive as he is.  Not to mention the Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has made it clear that he wants to equalize playing time, using the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins as an example.

That became apparent during a 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on November 1, when Boudreau benched Ovechkin during the final minute of regulation and instead put Backstrom – who wound up scoring the game-winning goal – out on the ice.  The Capitals coach’s reason for the benching was that he thought the other players were better and that he didn’t think Ovechkin was going to score.  Boudreau hasn’t lost confidence in his captain and knows he will be the key to winning a cup, or a key in helping him keep his job as he could be on the hot seat after last year’s embarrassing playoffs – one that ended with a first round sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Earlier this week Sidney Crosby created a media frenzy, returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in 11 months and it has left many wondering just exactly what has happened to that Ovechkin guy.  Well we can promise you one thing – you haven’t heard the last of Alex Ovechkin and he won’t stay quiet for too long!

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.