Alex Ovechkin was among the first players on the ice for Capitals’ practice Wednesday morning, which has become something of a routine for the star left wing. As he went about the practice, Ovechkin appeared fully engaged and showed no signs of lingering disappointment at having not been played at the end of regulation against the Ducks.
When he spoke with reporters after the session, Ovechkin acknowledged his frustration at not getting the important ice time but said he understood why Coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t play him. The coach said he wouldn’t expect any less from Ovechkin.
“Alex understands and gets it,” Boudreau said. “He’s a great captain that way. He gets mad because he wants to play and he wants to compete.”
So Boudreau, who said he didn’t hear Ovechkin’s comments as the left wing sat back down, wasn’t surprised when the captain was unhappy sitting on the bench.
“We want all our players – they’re all competitive,” Boudreau said. “I don’t want them to be complacent and say, ‘Oh that’s nice, I think that’s what the idea was’ – knowing him, he’s going to be upset.”
Since the summer the Capitals set out to place an emphasis on accountability. At the beginning of training camp, Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee stressed that the team would undergo tougher practices, training and conditioning standards as well as be held responsible for their nightly production.
Boudreau has been consistent in his rewarding of players that he believes are working hard and holding up their end of the bargain, and when others haven’t, they experience the other side. He made Marcus Johansson a healthy scratch for the season opener, Jeff Halpern sat out Tuesday’s contest against Anaheim and Mike Knuble was dropped down to the fourth line.
By not playing Ovechkin and going with the players who performed best against the Ducks, Boudreau showed that the standard applied to everyone in the lineup.
“I hope the message has gotten clear from July to now,” Boudreau said. “I’m hoping we don’t change that message we’re going to try to stay strong with it. That’s what it is and that’s the only way that we’re going to be successful.”