The Ovechkin benching: Judge for yourself

The Ovechkin benching: Judge for yourself
April 20, 2012, 5:57 pm
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Here are the facts:

In the final 14 minutes of the Capitals 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins Thursday night, a win that evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece, Alex Ovechkin took two shifts totaling 15 seconds. He played a total of 1:58 in the entire third period.

Here is the question everyone is asking today:

How could Dale Hunter bench his highest-paid player for all but two minutes of a one-goal contest in the most pivotal game of a playoff series?

And here is your answer, right from the mouths of the people involved:

Ovechkin: Of course, I want to be out there. Its his decision. I can appreciate the guys for how hard they played and we win the game. Thats the most important thing. It doesnt matter how many minutes I play. Of course, I want to be there, but its his decision.

Ovechkin on if he understands and accepts Hunters decision: Of course, I understand it and accept it. I want to be out there, but its his decision. Were not going to talk about it, because its not the time for this. We won the game, and thats the most important thing right now. It doesnt matter if I play 10 seconds or five seconds; the important thing is the result.

Hunter: We were matching lines. They were going back to the Patrice Bergeron line a lot. Sometimes, some lines get shortchanged a bit. But you do whatever it takes to win a game. Its not a decision, its just a game plan, matching lines.

Hunter elaborating on his decision to play forwards like Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer nearly eight minutes in the final period, while giving Ovechkin and Alex Semin less than two: At the end of the game, youve got your shot blockers out there. You want your best players blocking shots, but you dont want your offensive guys breaking a foot either. Ovi, the other night we were down a goal, and he was the guy we had to go to.

Hunter on how he expects Ovechkin to react: Ovi is a team guy. Hes rooting for the guys on the bench. When Beagle goes down to block a shot by Johnny Boychuk in the closing seconds, hes the first one to jump up and yell. He appreciates what guys like that do, and thats why hes a real team guy. Thats how you build a team. Everybody knows his role.

Beagle on Hunter shortening the bench in the third period: Its the playoffs, and when youre trying to kill a game, its almost like penalty killing. Youre putting a lot of your defensive forwards out there, and its vice-versa when we need a goal. Its something everyone knows and accepts. Thats why there are roles on a team, for those exact reasons. I wouldnt want Ovi to block that shot that I blocked. Thats what gives me a job.

Brouwer on Hunters distribution of ice time: Its always whatever the coach decides. Guys shouldnt be upset if their ice time is shortened. If we were down a goal, wed be looking for the two Alexes to be on the ice more than guys like me. They have to understand that, especially in playoffs, youve got to do whatever it takes to win.

So judge for yourself whether Hunters decision to bench Ovechkin was a good one. And if Ovechkin has accepted his role under the first-year NHL coach. And if given the opportunity, whether that coach would hesitate to do it again.