Alex Ovechkin has received criticism for his absentee defensive play throughout his nine-year NHL career and in the third period of a blowout loss against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night he offered more fuel for his detractors.
At the midway point of the period, Stars veteran Ray Whitney chipped the puck through the neutral zone up to Alex Chiasson, who raced into the Washington end. As the play moved toward the Washington net, though, Ovechkin glided near the offensive blueline, slowly moving up toward the red line and then completely missed Whitney as he cut in front of him to drive down the slot.
It wasn’t until Whitney passed him that Ovechkin took a full stride, even then it was only two steps before he coasted again.
“Ovi quit on the play coming back,” Coach Adam Oates said. Whitney “forced [the play] down the ice and just goes to show you you’ve got to hustle the entire time, the whole entire time.”
Pay particular attention to the replay of the tally beginning around the 25 second mark, which shows the play in the neutral zone.
Plays like that deserve criticism, no matter who is making them. It also sheds light on why Ovechkin somehow manages to lead the league in goals (48) while having the worst plus-minus rating (-36) of the 861 NHLers who have suited up this season. He’s the first player to do so since the NHL began keeping the plus-minus stat in 1967-68.
To be certain, plus-minus doesn’t take into consideration many of the multiple factors that lead to an even strength or shorthanded goal against — including the play of linemates, defensive play, and so on. It just tells us how many such tallies a player was on the ice for and must be considered with that in mind, but Ovechkin is still in historical territory.
And on plays like Jeffrey’s second goal, there’s little arguing that he deserved the minus he received.