Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's defense got to do with it?

Okay, so Coach Hanlon (and apparently Tarik) want the Russian Machine to work harder in the defensive end of the rink. Fair enough. But lets not get ahead of ourselves here.

Yes, Alex needs to develop into a better two way player. That's fine. But he also harbors the burden of carrying nearly the entirety of the Caps offense. Until Backstrom comes over to work with Semin, it's still going to be the Alex and Alex show, with Ovechkin asked to carry most of that workload.

Lets not try to turn him into Steve Konowalchuk just yet (although turning Sutherby into a Kono type... but I digress). Simply put, the Caps need Ovie to be free to create in the offensive end. If that means he's late backchecking that's an exchange the team needs to be willing to make... THIS year. A bit of a tug on the reins is fine, but any more than that before the rest of the team is ready to step up and take more of the offensive load off him would be a mistake.

Now next year, when we'll have two legitimate scoring lines (Clark, Ovie, Zubrus* to go with Semin, Backstrom, Pettinger/Fehr), more can and should be asked of the Russian Machine. Until then, we need Alex's offense more than his defense. Again, I'm not suggesting that we have him dangle at the red line (yes, I'm looking at you Maxim Afinogenov), but just reminding folks that the offense without OV doing his thing would be, well, sparse.

*assumes we re-sign Zubie. If not, bump Fehr to line 1 with Pettinger at line 2)

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