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.
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.”