It’s pretty safe to say Alexander Ovechkin is struggling this year. At least by the standards we hold him to. At the time of this writing, he has one goal, which was a deflection of a Mike Green shot against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and two assists, which were the result of a slap shot that went wide of the net but right to a teammate who buried it and a lost puck that happened to travel to a teammate and led to a goal. Through 5 games, that’s not very encouraging, especially considering this is following, statistically, his worst season. So, what gives?
This is the NHL, Teams Adjust
For the past few seasons teams have begun taking away his time and space, which has led to frustrations and blocked or missed shots. Believe it or not, Ovechkin has become predictable. Since his rookie season in 2005-06, he has been flying down the left, cutting into the high slot, and, while using the defensemen as a screen, firing the puck at the net with his wicked wrist shot. It isn’t hard to defend this. Defensemen have learned to just stand him up, which gives the back checking forwards enough time to get back and strip him of the puck or force a bad shot. He’s gone to the well one too many times and needs to mix it up. Maybe cut into the high slot and hit the open man driving to the net with a crisp pass.
The Numbers Never Lie
The biggest difference between this year and previous seasons is Ovechkin’s shots on goal. Since his rookie season, no one has more shots on goal than Alexander Ovechkin. In fact, the next closest, Henrik Zetterberg, has 747 shots fewer than the Great 8. Prior to this season, Ovechkin has averaged 5.38 shots per game. Extrapolated over 82 games, that’s roughly 441 shots per season. With his career shooting percentage hovering around 12% this should result in approximately 53 goals per season. This year he is averaging 3.4 shots per game, which, extrapolated over 82 games, is roughly 279 shots per season. This drop off in shots should result in around 33 goals this season, if he continues his current pace and his career shooting percentage holds true. So the simple solution: Get the puck to the net!
“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality” ~Joe Paterno
People criticizing Alexander Ovechkin seem to be oblivious to the fact that the Washington Capitals are 5-0-0 and look incredible. Ovechkin might not be putting up great numbers, but clearly he doesn’t have to for the Capitals to be successful. Perhaps shooting more will ultimately hurt the team, since bad angle shots and blocked shots can result in opponents taking the puck the other way on odd man rushes. Maybe we are witnessing the maturation of Alexander Ovechkin. A man willing to trade another Rocket Richard Trophy for a Stanley Cup. A Great Team8.
All stats were gathered from Yahoo! Sports.