For as well as Alex Ovechkin has been playing recently and for as naturally as the goals seem to have come for him through the first 33 games of the season, Coach Adam Oates’s approach with the star winger doesn’t change. There is always room for improvement.
Oates brought up two parts of the game that Ovechkin isn’t involved in – penalty kill and faceoffs – as potential examples. That doesn’t mean Ovechkin will be out blocking shots shorthanded or taking draws regularly any time soon Oates said, but there is always something every player can add to their game or improve upon.
“I try to do my best, but of course I’m not thinking 100 percent all about offense,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes I have to play more carefully in defense, especially when we get the lead because you get the time, five minutes left you can’t make mistake out there. You have to be concentrating and you have to make right decision.”
Ovechkin was named the NHL’s first star of the week Monday after he recorded five goals and an assist in three games over the past week. The goals he scored included game-tying tallies in the final minute of regulation against both Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
Even after a week such as that, Oates wants Ovechkin to continue focusing on becoming better involved in the offensive cycle, helping out more in defensive coverage so he knows when to relieve pressure off center Nicklas Backstrom and finding new places to maximize how much of a scoring threat he can be.
“You stretch every guy’s limitations,” Oates said. “I talked to him about his goal last night, he’s in the middle of the ice. I tell him all the time I don’t think he’s in the middle of the ice often enough. Good things happen to you [there]. The shot he took, that’s a special shot, I agree with that. That’s who he is. But he’s in the middle of the ice, and good things happen when you’re there.”
When Ovechkin scored off a faceoff win against Tampa Bay, he was more toward the middle of the ice.
“We’re putting our best sniper in a position where if some good things happen, he might get a shot there,” Oates said. “It’s a threatening shot, so why aren’t you going there all the time?”