Washington Capitals LW Alexander Ovechkin has been playing fewer minutes than ever before, but it wasn't until he was stuck on the bench late in the third period of a game in which his team was desperate for the tying goal that many bothered to take note.
There is a different approach with the Washington Capitals superstar this season and it appears that Tuesday night's late-game benching just put it under the spotlight.
With ten points in ten games, it's not like Ovechkin is off to a terrible start -- point-per-game left wingers hardly grow on trees -- but his production is down from previous seasons. His average of 3.70 shots on goal per game is easily the lowest of his career (last year's 4.65 shots per game was his previous low) and it takes more than a point per game if Ovechkin has ideas about notching the fourth 100-point season of his career.
Ovechkin has averaged 18:37 of ice time per game this season, well down from his career average of 21:59 per game.
Notorious for taking long shifts, Ovechkin remains among the forwards taking the longest shifts, a list that is naturally comprised of players who get significant power play time because it is admittedly easier to stay on for a minute or longer while controlling the puck with the man advantage.
Here are the forwards with the longest average shift length so far this season (minimum six games played):
Just for fun, a look at the forwards with the lowest average shift length too (also minimum six games played):
The upshot of all this, I suppose, is that Ovechkin's ice time is down and his production is down. Until either one of those situations changes, he's not going to be in the running for the most valuable/productive/best player in the league. He's merely very good to excellent.
Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen is out 3-4 weeks after suffering a leg injury against Tampa Bay Tuesday. Jokinen has been playing with Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner lately, so there will be a prime opening in Carolina's top six for the next month.
If the 'Canes don't look for external options, they could bump Jiri Tlusty (three points in his last three games) up the depth chart or give a shot to Zach Boychuk or Zac Dalpe, once Dalpe is deemed healthy enough to return from his lower body injury.
BIG, BAD BRUINS
Brought in as a perceived upgrade to Tomas Kaberle, Joe Corvo hasn't exactly been an easy fit with the Boston Bruins. Corvo has three points and is minus-6 in 11 games and his ice time has dipped into the 18-minute range for the last three games (he started the season playing 22-plus in four of the first five games).
If Corvo doesn't start producing, the Bruins may have to start looking at external options because the likes of Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg aren't going to provide the puck-moving element on the blueline that the Bruins seek.
To be fair, it's not like Corvo is alone among Bruins that are underachieving. Coming back from his playoff concussion, Nathan Horton hasn't been sharp, putting up five points in 11 games. More troubling is that Horton only has 16 shots in 11 games; it's a small sample, but Horton has to be able to generate more than 1.5 shots per game, since he's averaged 2.28 per game throughout his career.
Slowed by a leg injury early in the season, David Krejci has also been struggling to recapture his playoff form, with one point and a minus-6 rating in eight games.
It could take some time for Horton and Krejci to work their way out of their early-season woes, but they seem like good buy-low options if you can get them before their games really get back on track.
The departure of Christian Ehrhoff in the offseason opened up more responsibility on the Canucks blueline for Alexander Edler and, while his power play ice time is up about 30 seconds per game, Edler has responded with 12 points in 12 games, including six points on the power play and ten points in his last six games.
Sure, it's a hot streak that can't continue, but Edler seems well on his way to surpassing his career-high of 42 points in 2009-2010.
FIRST FOR CONNOLLY
Tampa Bay rookie RW Brett Connolly tallied his first NHL goal against Carolina and he's worth keeping an eye on, particularly as long as he's skating on a line with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier -- that's the kind of spot that can make for a productive season just for being in the right place at the right time.
COG IN THE WHEEL
After moving to left wing on the Ducks' second line, skating with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano was plus-2 in a season-high 18:05 of ice time. Cogliano only has two points in 12 games this year, but the opportunity to play in an offensive role with quality linemates does make him more appealing.
For his part, Selanne put up four points and a plus-3 rating in Tuesday's OT loss to Washington. One of the great benefits for Selanne in Anaheim is that the number one line commands so much attention that Selanne can find some favourable matchups. Against Washington, the Caps sent Roman Hamrlik and John Carlson out against Selanne most often, electing to put Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz up against Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry (per www.timeonice.com).
Getting lit up for five goals on 18 shots is a bad night for any goaltender but even after Tuesday's night's shelling, Miikka Kiprusoff has a 2.50 goals against average and .913 save percentage. If he can hold those numbers for the entire season, it would be his second-best season of the last five.
Oilers LW Linus Omark has been sent to Oklahoma City of the AHL after going scoreless with a minus-2 rating in his first five games. While he was a nasty minus-16 in 51 games last season, Omark's shot differential was actually much better, so he could have reasonably been expected to rebound in his second season, but the goals and assists haven't been there immediately.
Omark might not fit in the Oilers' top nine (though he just might, if given the opportunity), but he's likely skilled enough to play in that role for several other NHL teams. Will he bide his time in the AHL and hope for a fresh start somewhere else, or another shot in Edmonton? No matter which way he goes, as long as he doesn't return to Europe, Omark is a name to keep in mind -- a deep sleeper with offensive potential if he ends up in the right situation.
By the way, both Koivus scored last night after they were included in yesterday's piece on notable players that didn't score a goal in October.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.