Caps not watching the clock

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,Brian McNally
Outside of the Capitals' locker room it was all anybody could talk about in the aftermath of Monday's 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series: How could Washington coach Dale Hunter play Alex Ovechkin, his star left wing and one of the game's great goal scorers, a meager 13 minutes, 36 seconds? Inside the room, there was no such uproar.

"To be honest it's not even something that we notice," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We don't go down the sheet at the end of the game and say, 'How much did Ovi play?' That's just not something that we do. Talking to some of the guys inside there, we all keep saying the same thing. It's too bad that that's the topic of conversation after we just won a big game."

That ice time was a career playoff low for Ovechkin, who averaged 19:48 during the regular season. That ranked tops among all Caps forwards. But in the playoffs, Ovechkin is down to 19:08 with forwards Nicklas Backstrom (20:47) and Brooks Laich (19:50) ahead of him. At even strength only, Ovechkin's time (15:23) ranks third among all forwards. But there is a method to what some see as Hunter's madness. On the road, where he doesn't have the final line change after a whistle, Ovechkin is often pulled from the ice when the opposing coach goes with his checking line. That's not an issue at home, where Hunter gets to dictate the matchup. He's essentially using Ovechkin as an offensive specialist and leaving him on the bench when the Caps get a lead.

"The reason why their ice time is down is because we're [winning]. If we were down a goal, their ice time would be way up because that's where we need them most," forward Troy Brouwer said of the team's top offensive players. "We've got guys like [Jay] Beagle, [Jason] Chimera and [Matt Hendricks] that are looked at when we're leading in a game to maintain that lead, and Alex knows that, and he has to accept that."

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner