Through four games, the Washington Capitals appeared to be dazed and confused under new coach Adam Oates.
Fans hoped the former Blues star would revive Washington’s lagging offense. Thus far he hasn’t done that.
Instead Oates applied the principles learned during his assistant coaching stint with the Devils.
For instance, he tried to move Alexander Ovechkin from left wing to right, as the Devils did with winger Ilya Kovalchuk. That shift paid big dividends for the Devils last season, but thus far Ovechkin has bristled at the change.
He kept drifting back to his accustomed left side. So Oates move him back there, but stuck him with fourth-line forwards Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb at even strength.
Let the war of wills begin!
Playing Ovechkin with two muckers is one of the strangest coaching moves you’ll see in a long time.
“I wouldn’t call it the first line,” Oates told the Washington Post. “It’s just more to give Jay and Crabber – Crabber played a lot of hockey games so he had some real good jump – and just let them play with Ovi for 60 minutes so they can skate.”
That’s great, but isn’t the point of hockey to score goals and win games? The Capitals are 0-3-1 heading into today’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.
“Playing with Ovi it almost opens up a lot more room for me and Crabber. It’s kind of weird,” Beagle told the Post. “I’ve never really experienced something where two defenders are on one guy so there’s two-on-ones all over the ice kind of because you’re playing with Ovi.”
Beagle is thrilled with this opportunity, of course, but Ovechkin scored exactly zero goals in four games.
“Of course I wanna see my name on the score list,” Ovechkin said. “We’re gonna try. It’s not frustrating. Right now most important thing it’s not about make a points or make goals. We have to take a win. One win and then I think it’s gonna be a very relief for us.”
The other ineffective Capitals lines featured Nicklas Backstrom centering Wojtek Wolski and Troy Brouwer, Ribeiro centering Jason Chimera and Joel Ward and Marcus Johansson centering Matt Hendricks and Eric Fehr.
“Trying to find balance and chemistry,” Oates explained. “The biggest subject we’ve been talking about is conditioning and just trying to make sure that we have someone in the line that has got game shape, total game shape.”
Again, this is not practice. These games actually count.