Since he arrived as head coach of the Capitals last season, Adam Oates has always gone to Alex Ovechkin in shootouts.
Eighteen times in a row, Oates penciled Ovechkin’s name as one of the Caps’ top three shooters.
Until Saturday night.
With the Capitals’ captain 2-for-15 in shootouts this season [he was a perfect 3-for-3 last season] and with the Caps winless in their last six shootouts, Oates altered his strategy, leading off with rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored on a snapshot.
Instead of going to Ovechkin next, Oates turned to Eric Fehr, who was 5-for-9 this season but was stopped by Sharks goalie Anntti Niemi.
Nicklas Backstrom hopped over the boards next and finished off the 3-2 victory by tucking in a backhander for his seventh shootout goal in 15 attempts this season.
Would Ovechkin have been next up? We may never know, but Oates went with his percentages and even though Fehr didn’t score, the Caps got two big saves from Braden Holtby and the two points they desperately needed.
As for Ovechkin, he’s recorded 13 shots in his last three games but has not scored a goal since being united with center Jay Beagle. He is also even on the plus-minus sheet in those three games after being a minus player in nine straight games.
Ovechkin has not scored an even-strength goal since the Caps’ first game back from the Olympic break on Feb. 27, a stretch of 12 games. He has five power-play goals in that span but is a minus-14 in that span.
Despite not being a plus player since before the Olympic break, Ovechkin still holds a 10-goal lead on Anaheim’s Corey Perry with 46 goals and is on pace for 53, his highest total since 2008-09.