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Trotz says it's 'on me' to get Ovechkin more playing time

Trotz says it's 'on me' to get Ovechkin more playing time

TORONTO—Capitals coach Barry Trotz says it’s on him to get Alex Ovechkin more playing time.

According to the NHL’s official game sheet, Ovechkin played 22 shifts covering 15:08 in Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. Four Caps forwards skated more overall, and six played more at even strength. Ovechkin played only 4:13 in a crucial third period.

Following an optional practice at the Leafs' facility on Tuesday, Trotz took the blame for Ovechkin's low ice time total. 

“That’s on me to get him the ice time,” Trotz said.

Ovechkin did not skate and was not available to comment.

“Sometimes that’s situational,” Trotz continued. “Sometimes that’s zone starts. His minutes should be…I can get those up.”

The Caps captain averaged 18:22 during the regular season, which was down almost two minutes per game from the previous year as Trotz attempted to manage the 31-year-old's minutes and keep him fresh for the playoffs.

According to hockeyreference.com, Ovechkin’s ice time total Monday night was the second lowest of his playoff career. The other four times he played fewer than 16 minutes came during the 2012 postseason, including a career-low of 13:36.

RELATED: FEAR NOT CAPS FANS, PLAYOFF CHAOS WAS ACROSS THE BOARD ON MONDAY NIGHT

Trotz said Ovechkin’s ice time total in Game 3 was not a reflection of his play. In fact, Trotz praised No. 8, who scored a goal and a team-high five shots on goal. He also logged four hits and two blocked shots.

“It wasn’t based on play,” Trotz said. “I thought Ovi was playing terrific. It’s on me to get him a little more ice time, no question.”

Trotz reiterated that Ovechkin’s playing time had more to do with the flow of the game, his attempt at getting favorable matchups and a preference for starting the top line in the offensive zone.

(It’s also important to note that Ovechkin does not kill penalties, which reduces his playing time. For example, Nicklas Backstrom played 17:30 on Monday, while T.J. Oshie skated 18:37. They, however, saw 1:52 and 1:04 of shorthanded ice time, respectively.)

As far as matchups Monday, Ovechkin saw quite a bit of the Leo Komarov-Nazem Kadri-Connor Brown again. He also faced the Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev defensive pair.

“Sometimes you look at minutes and sometimes they are overstated because you’re out there 20 minutes, but they're not quality minutes,” Trotz said. “His minutes have been hard, quality minutes. I know him and Komarov have been going at it and Zaitsev and [Morgan] Rielly and all that. So he’s targeted. They’re doing their job, just as we’re doing our job on their guys.”

Trotz added: “There’s rhythms in the game. You try to get [Ovechkin] offensive [zone] starts. We’ve got to get a few more offensive starts here and there, too.”

RELATED: CAPITALS' KARL ALZNER RULED OUT FOR GAME 4 AGAINST MAPLE LEAFS

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Evgeni Kuznetsov glad to see the Caps rely on youth more

Evgeni Kuznetsov glad to see the Caps rely on youth more

The Caps' offseason roster turnover has been well-documented, but Evgeni Kuznetsov doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing. 

Speaking to Igor Eronko of Sport-Express, Kuznetsov took a more optimistic approach to what'll be a much different looking team come October:

RELATED: PREVIEWING THE METRO DIVISION 

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

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USA TODAY Sports

The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Jill Sorenson, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly.

Will Devante Smith-Pelly manage to ressurect his career this season?

After getting bought out by the Devils on June 30, Smith-Pelly signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Caps a few days later. The deal will pay him $650,000 in Washington and $300,000 in Hershey.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR THE BLUE JACKETS

It's a significant paycut from the $1.25 million that Smith-Pelly, 25, earned last season, and the contract offers less job security. But he's got another chance, much like the one the Caps gave to Brett Connolly a year ago, to seize a spot in the bottom six and reestablish himself in the league. Connolly, after being cut loose by the Bruins last summer, took full advantage of his opporrunity here, scoring a career-high 15 goals in 66 games and earning a two-year, $3 million extension from GM Brian MacLellan.    

When training camp opens in mid-September, the Caps are going to need a pair of wingers to play with center Jay Beagle on the fourth line. There will be no shortage of competition for those positions, with Smith-Pelly expected to battle Anthony Peluso and forward prospects Nathan Walker, Chandler Stephenson, Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien and perhaps others.

Smith-Pelly would seem to have the inside track based on experience alone. He’s played in 266 NHL regular season games and 24 playoff contests. (Peluso, 28, has played in 142 games, while no one else I mentioned has appeared in more than 14.)

Smith-Pelly, a 6-foot, 214-pound righty, has also had some eyebrow raising stretches in his career. In the 2014 playoffs as a member of the Ducks, he amassed five goals in 12 games while averaging 4.4 hits per. In 2016, he was dealt from Montreal to the Devils late in the season and ended up racking up eight goals and five assists in only 18 games.

So, Smith-Pelly has been productive. He just hasn’t been consistent.

Will that change in Washington? That’s yet to be determined. But we can already surmise this much: he's got a pretty good opportunity in front of him and he's probably running out of chances.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley