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Capitals' Trotz on Ovechkin: 'There was some bad advice given to Ovi at times'

Geoff Burke / USA Today

Alex Ovechkin is playing some of the best hockey of his career under the guidance of Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz.

Ovechkin is in the hunt for his fifth Rocket Richard trophy and scoring at a point-per-game pace with Trotz behind the bench, but he has also improved his defensive game. The 29-year-old was labeled a coach-killer after the team fired Adam Oates, but Trotz's experience has been the exact opposite.

Contrary to popular belief, Trotz has found the Capitals' captain to be a very coachable player, and he believes the reason Ovechkin struggled under previous coaches lies with their tactics rather than Ovechkin's demeanor.

"There was some bad advice given to Ovi at times, in how they wanted him to play," Trotz told Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington. "Ovi is a guy that will do what you ask. That’s what I've found."

Ovechkin's offensive production declined below a point-per-game pace under Dale Hunter, who coached the team during the 2011-12 season. His scoring recovered during Oates's tenure, but his defensive game was harshly criticized when Oates used him at right wing instead of his more natural position on the left side.

"I made it pretty simple," Trotz said. "I wanted him to go back to the left side. I thought he was more dangerous there. I (told) him, 'When you have the puck I want you to do what you do. And when you don't have the puck I want you to do what I want you to do, and if you do that you'll have the puck more.'"

Trotz said Ovechkin is a pleasure to work with and applauded his blunt honesty, which could easily be mistaken for attitude in the wrong context.

He's bluntly honest, which is actually a strength, not a weakness. To me, it's just getting everybody on the same page and recognizing everybody has a certain role on the team in terms of pulling on the rope. Certain people have to do certain things and when you look at the whole picture, where do you fit in this puzzle? Obviously, when we got everybody on the same page I think it made relationships and all that a lot better.

Ovechkin recorded six goals and five assists on a six-game scoring streak before being held off the scoresheet in Washington's last two contests. The Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

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