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As the Capitals worked through the morning skate Monday, on a few drills Alex Ovechkin lined up on the right wing side rather than his usual spot on the left.
It’s a shift that could provide more open space for Ovechkin as it would see him enter the offensive zone baring down on Ryan McDonagh, the other half of New York’s shutdown pairing, rather than Dan Girardi. Girardi has spent the bulk of his career finding ways to thwart the Washington captain.
Whether Ovechkin actually does play some of Game 2 on the right side, though, is uncertain.
“He’s always going to get Girardi no matter what,” Coach Dale Hunter said when asked if he might move Ovechkin to alter the matchup. “Just like he had [Zdeno] Chara last series. That’s the way it is. Ovi’s hitting, driving to the net and good things will happen.”
While Bruce Boudreau would occasionally switch things up to move Ovechkin away from Girardi, which occurred in the 2011 playoffs, or other prominent defensemen Hunter hasn’t turned to it for more than an occasional shift.
Playing on the right side can force Ovechkin to skate in straight lines, take a simpler route to the offensive zone and not over-complicate plays. But there’s always a tendency for players who are accustomed to playing on one side to drift there regardless of where they lined up for a faceoff.
Players can also use one setup on a faceoff and then intentionally switch in an effort to cause confusion among defenses. The Capitals could elect to engage in that type of subterfuge in an attempt to throw New York off its defensive game and widen the gaps for Ovechkin.
Unlike Boston’s Chara, who would shadow Ovechkin regardless of where he was on the ice, the Rangers’ top pairing seemed more comfortable handing off responsibilities in Game 1 and didn’t chase targets all over the ice.
Whether the change happens or not, Troy Brouwer said he understands the logic for trying it.
“I know he likes to come down the left side so he has a good opportunity to get his shot off,” the Capitals forward said. “Guys have read this. They know what he’s capable of so they stand up on him they don’t give him much room. So maybe coming down the right side, driving it wide getting pucks to the net will be good for him.”