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Alex Ovechkin, Bruce Boudreau And Ice Time: Is This Causing A Rift?

It's no secret that there's something going on with Alex Ovechkin and Bruce Boudreau. Whether that something is a rift or just a stretch of uninspired play is impossible to determine for sure, but whatever it is has been a major cause of the Washington Capitals' woes. In a strong column on Monday, Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post suggests that Boudreau and Ovechkin must get on the same page immediately.

Coach Bruce Boudreau must reconnect with the Washington Capitals’ locker room, beginning with Monday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes. That process starts with getting on the same page as Alex Ovechkin. Too often this season, it has appeared the coach and the captain have been pulling in opposite directions.

El-Bashir lists a number of factors that have caused discontent between the coach and his star. There's one in particular, though, that intrigues me: ice time.

As El-Bashir writes:

Boudreau wants to distribute playing time more equitably. Although Ovechkin hasn’t complained publicly, it’s hard to believe he’s fine with skating 18 minutes 46 seconds per game, which is more than four minutes fewer than he averaged during his 65-goal season in 2007-08.

Ovechkin averages just under 22 minutes of ice time per game in his career, so that's a significant drop. Even with the best of intentions, this may be questionable. Ovechkin himself hasn't spoken up publicly about his lack of ice time, but one prominent hockey writer has spoken up about the Capitals' desire to change Ovechkin. Here's Larry Brooks of the New York Post, from over the weekend:

Unless Ovechkin simply is not in good enough condition at the age of 26 to play approximately the 23:03 a match he averaged over the course of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons during which he was the NHL’s most electrifying athlete, then limiting his ice time so people such as Cody Eakin or Joel Ward can get a few extra spins is strategy from another planet that is doomed to fail.

All this is to say that Boudreau may need to give Ovechkin his extended ice time back in an attempt to get him going. Accountability matters, and reinforcing bad habits is dangerous, but this team is sputtering with Ovechkin playing the way he is. A change may be in order.