Edmonton at Washington: The Ovechkin Minutes

Jonathan Willis
January 14 2009 07:50AM

For most of last night’s game, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau ran out the following forward combinations:

Ovechkin – Backstrom – Semin

Fleischmann – Nylander – Bradley

Laich – Fedorov - Kozlov

Brashear – Steckel – Clark

Now, those aren’t bad second, third or fourth lines, but clearly the most dangerous weapon on this team is Alexander Ovechkin, while Nicklas Backstrom (45 points in 44 games) and Alexander Semin (37 points in 26 games) are also incredibly gifted offensive players. While this is small-sample stuff, I thought it might be interesting to review Ovechkin’s ice-time and show who he played against the most:

Sam Gagner – 7.2 minutes

Shawn Horcoff – 6.6 minutes

Erik Cole – 6.4 minutes

Ryan Potulny – 4.6 minutes

Liam Reddox – 3.9 minutes

Ethan Moreau – 3.5 minutes

Gilbert Brule – 2.8 minutes

Dustin Penner – 2.5 minutes

Kyle Brodziak – 2.2 minutes

Marc Pouliot – 2.0 minutes

Andrew Cogliano – 1.8 minutes

Steve MacIntyre – 0.4 minutes

Sheldon Souray – 6.8 minutes

Tom Gilbert – 6.5 minutes

Denis Grebeshkov – 4.4 minutes

Steve Staios – 4.3 minutes

Lubomir Visnovsky – 3.8 minutes

Ladislav Smid – 3.4 minutes

The ice-times above are automatically recorded by the Head to Head Ice Time function from timeonice.com, which takes them from the official NHL play-by-play charts. The other very cool feature of this website is the Shift Chart feature. To look at last night’s game, just enter the official NHL game number (20634) and every player’s shifts will come up, allowing an incredibly accurate game summary and the best possible look we have at what exactly the coaches were doing. It gives us context.

For example, we know that Shawn Horcoff’s line was the preferred match for MacTavish at even-strength; the vast majority of the time the Oilers made a shift change as Ovechkin came on to the ice, Horcoff came on for the Oilers. It would also appear that Boudreau didn’t mind this match-up; every so often Ovechkin came on to the ice after Horcoff was already on.

Still, Boudreau’s preferred match-up was Ovechkin against Sam Gagner’s line; and given that this was a road game, Boudreau got his way more often than not. Cole and Potulny were Gagner’s regular linemates, so they saw quite a bit of Ovechkin, while Reddox and to a much lesser extent Penner did the same as Horcoff’s linemates. In the defensive zone, quite often MacTavish would send out Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff together; that’s the biggest reason the two are ahead of their linemates by such a degree. Ethan Moreau would also get subbed in from time to time, and especially as penalty-kills expired.

The match-up that Craig MacTavish avoided with complete determination was the Cogliano – Moreau – Pouliot line against Ovechkin. This may have been an in-game adjustment; on their first shift MacTavish sent them out against Ovechkin’s line, and they didn’t look so good. After that, MacTavish generally sent them out as Ovechkin was approaching the end of his shift –- the safest possible time.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Darcy
January 14 2009, 08:01AM
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I noticed that Gagner was on the ice a lot with Ovi. Its a testament to his determination as a hockey player that this undersized 19 year old did so well against the best player in the league.

Gagner should not be a part of any trade talks unless Ovi, Crosby or Malkin is coming back the other way, and that simply isn't happening. He is going to be a significant player in the NHL.

Its also a testament to his game that this 19 year old who struggled in the first part of the season still has a 5v5 GF-GA/60 differential of +0.62, which is the best among Oiler forwards......at 19!!!!

Good stuff as usual Jonathan.

I think they tried to keep Grebs and Lubo away from Ovi too.

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#2 King Mob
January 14 2009, 08:53AM
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my knowledge of this "ho-ckey" (as it's called) is not as deep as yours, John.

How does the fact that it was a road game mean that Bruce is going to get his way more often when it comes to line matching?

great article, btw.

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#3 Oilersordeath
January 14 2009, 08:59AM
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The boys played a decent game last night, nice to see some pucks go in for once!! Brule's goal was just a beauty. Roli stood on his head early on whew! Sure gonna be nice to Hemmer back in there, but Pisani please just release that guy!

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#4 Ender the Dragon
January 14 2009, 09:07AM
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@ King Mob:

King, the home team gets the last change before each faceoff, so the home coach gets to have a look at who the visitor is putting out there, and then ice the line that he prefers against them.

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#5 Gord
January 14 2009, 09:18AM
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Good stuff, JW. I think the more important match ups where the d-men put out against Ovechkin. The two defensmen that stood out against the Cap's superstar were Souray (physically dominated) and Staios (shot blocking). Ovi was clearly frustrated by both d-men at points of the game. For all the bashing we have been doing of Staios of late, it was good to see him come out with a good game against top opposition.

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#6 King Mob
January 14 2009, 09:21AM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

wow, I seriously can't believe I didn't know that. thanks for the info!

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#7 Travis Dakin
January 14 2009, 09:24AM
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@ King Mob:

Did you read the 10 things you didn't know on the GDB yesterday? now that is some pertinent information.

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#8 King Mob
January 14 2009, 09:27AM
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@ Travis Dakin:

no, but Im on my way right now.

Looks like another day at the office pretending to get work done, but really just reading about hockey. Not that I'm complaining.

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#9 King Mob
January 14 2009, 09:29AM
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oh wait, yes I did. hehe. tittle.

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#10 Mike Krushelnyski
January 14 2009, 09:31AM
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So Moreau played 17+ minutes last night and only 3 against Ovechkin? Why so many minutes if he's not going to be a shutdown guy? He's obviously not a goalscorer...

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#11 Travis Dakin
January 14 2009, 09:52AM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

So Moreau played 17+ minutes last night and only 3 against Ovechkin? Why so many minutes if he’s not going to be a shutdown guy? He’s obviously not a goalscorer…

You gotta give Horcoff a break once in a while.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
January 14 2009, 10:07AM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

So Moreau played 17+ minutes last night and only 3 against Ovechkin? Why so many minutes if he’s not going to be a shutdown guy? He’s obviously not a goalscorer…

Honestly, I don't know what Moreau's role is in the current lineup. One would think he'd play defensive minutes, but he hasn't been great at that this year, and he certainly won't do it with Cogliano and Pouliot (not because they aren't capable, but Cogliano's offense is too vluable at the moment).

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#13 APE
January 14 2009, 10:15AM
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I'm just glad he didn't take any stupid penalties with all those minutes he played.

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#14 Mike Krushelnyski
January 14 2009, 11:01AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Maybe MacT will accept that without Hemsky in the lineup his boy Horcoff belongs on the 3rd line with Moreau. It's silly to have Moreau out with Cogliano who is now our leading goal scorer.

I can understand Horcoff being our top center because MacT wants someone who's fast and defensively responsible with Hemsky, but talking purely in terms of offensive ability Horc is maybe our 6th best forward in that department.

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#15 Jonathan Willis
January 14 2009, 12:16PM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski:

Our first line is our video-game third line right now; handling the checking role. And, if you mean third in terms of minutes, Horcoff's easily the best centre on this team in terms of winning games right now - and it isn't close, despite the fact that Cogliano's been fantastic this season.

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#16 Mike Krushelnyski
January 14 2009, 12:38PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Yeah sorry, that could have been clearer, I guess I'm talking in video game terms. I get the sense that without Hemsky, Horcoff's role is a little undefined like Moreau's. I say get the two of them out there together playing against the other team's top line and get Penner playing a more offensive role because he looks lost out there right now.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
January 14 2009, 12:52PM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski:

No worries, that's what I figured. Penner doesn't look great right now, but I'm not convinced that Moreau is a huge improvement.

MacTavish tried Pisani - Horcoff - Cole earlier; I thought that was a good combination, but Horcoff and Cole don't seem to have much in the way of chemistry.

Right now, I think the bigges problem with this team (with Hemsky and Pisani out) is that there aren't enough players who can handle a defensive role. When Hemsky's with Horcoff, that's a good line to run power-vs.-power; when he's replaced by Reddox, not so much.

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#18 Dennis
January 14 2009, 06:45PM
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I think Moreau's role on this club is that the org overrates him and he'd be hard to trade.

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#19 Smokin' Ray
January 14 2009, 07:08PM
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The Oilers should take a page from the Thrashers book and award someone else the C. I think that change alone would spark the team. No trade. No one gets fired. Just a change. Now the question. Who?

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#20 Chris
January 15 2009, 11:37AM
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@ Smokin' Ray:

The Oiler team leaders held a players only meeting after the San Jose loss... Everyone seems to have responded well since then. I wouldn't go tearing the C off anybody just yet. It's funny how winning fixes everything... Emery would still be a Senator, and Avery would still be in Dallas if those two teams were leading their respective divisions. Every year I freak out and lose all hope for the Oil just a day or so before they turn a corner. This year I wrote off the team extra early... This way the Oilers still have enough time to climb into one of the top eight positions. It was a nice win in Washington, hopefully a sign that things are coming around... Minnesota will be another good test.

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