If the Caps go down 0-2 and Ovi doesn’t score in his paltry 13 minutes and 36 seconds of ice time — or almost five minutes less than Jeff Schultz and six minutes less than Dennis Wideman — then Hunter is the culprit in a second-guessed strategy that can only be reasoned as foolishly turning The Great Eight into Alexander The Decoy.
But they didn’t. The Caps won without Ovechkin for much of the night. Again. So who cares, right?
When a two-time league MVP is played less than a quarter of an entire playoff game by his defense-obsessed coach, that has to be a story. But is it, especially if a once-potent offensive juggernaut keeps winning ugly when it matters?
Two series into the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ovechkin might have to sit and bear it until the ultimate result changes.
“Dale, anybody who’s following our team, you see he’s coaching the situations,” said Mike Knuble, who scored the game’s first goal Monday night on a pretty tic-tac-toe play. “He’s playing certain guys. If we’re down a goal, he’s going to be our main guy. He’s going every other shift.
“If we’re up a goal, then Dale tends to lean on other guys. That’s the way it is. I guess they can talk about it this summer after the season and figure it out. For now it’s working and we’re going to run with it.”
It seems counter to puck logic, but Hunter has decided his team is better off without his team’s alleged best player on the ice during crucial moments of the postseason.
So as the series heads back to Washington for Games 3 and 4, as young Braden Holtby rebounded from his worst playoff performance by stoning so many Rangers who buzzed his net in the second and third periods, let’s give it up for the true No. 1 stars of the Caps these past few weeks:
Hunter and Ovechkin, two silent loggerheads who have yet to publicly let their differences get in the way of a very riveting postseason in Washington.
“You have to suck it up and use time what Dale is giving to me,” Ovi said Monday night in the visitors’ locker room at Madison Square Garden. “It’s most important thing right now, guys, just win the series and win the game. If you gonna talk about my game time and all that kind of stuff, it’s not a season — it’s the playoffs. How I said before, you have to suck it up and play for team.”
He added, “Sometimes you just have to put eye in your butt and, you know, play for everybody.”
Got that, kids? Keep your eye in your be-hind and be a good teammate.