Washington Capitals defenseman Alex Alexeyev hasn’t had the easiest rookie season in the world. The 2018 first-round draft selection began the season injured, rehabbed, spent a majority of the season as a healthy scratch, and only recently has become a consistent presence in the Capitals’ lineup.
That newfound stability in the lineup was brought on by the team moving two veteran, left-handed defensemen at the trade deadline. One of those defenders was Alexeyev’s good buddy Dmitry Orlov.
Orlov did an interview with Sport24 correspondent Daria Tuboltseva after his move to the Boston Bruins and talked about Alexeyev’s new role. He says he was not a fan of Caps head coach Peter Laviolette constantly making Alexeyev a healthy scratch.
“I’m glad that they started to let Alexeyev play,” Orlov said and translated via Google Translate. “It took a long time to happen. I was against keeping him in reserve.”
Before the late February trade that saw Orlov shipped off to Boston, Alexeyev played in just 12 games for the Caps. He has now doubled that total and played 12 games in the month of March alone.
Alexeyev says he saw the opportunity coming when the deals featuring Orlov and Erik Gustafsson were made.
“Yes, it was clear when Orlov was exchanged,” Alexeyev told Tuboltseva in his own interview and also translated via Google Translate. “He’s a left-handed defender like me. And Gustafsson is also left-handed. We phoned the agent after the trade, came to the conclusion that they would let me play, and we should use this chance.”
And, using that chance is exactly what Alexeyev has done since. In March, the young, Russian blueliner has played close to 19 minutes per game and has been one of the team’s best players at five-on-five.
In Alexeyev’s 194:49 of five-on-five ice time, the Caps have seen 51.2 percent of the shot attempts, 55 percent of the expected goals, 53.5 percent of the scoring chances, and 50.6 percent of the high-danger chances. Those numbers are made even more impressive by the fact that Alexeyev has started just 31 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Alexeyev credits the now-departed Orlov for some of that success.
“In Washington, he was a mentor for me, he helped me in everything, prompted me on the ice and off the ice,” Alexeyev said. “And Dima is just a good person. When he was injured and I was recovering, we spent more time on the ice, we trained more. And yes, he told me, ‘I wish they had already given you to play.’ Unfortunately, they let me play when he left.”
In 24 games this season, Alexeyev has five assists. He is still looking for his first NHL goal.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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