Washington Capitals Player Report Card: Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin

Stat line: GP 79, Goals 32, Assists 52, Points 84, +/- 24, PIM 41

Scoring Chance% Ranking: 3/29
Forwards: 3/19
Balanced Corsi Ranking: 2/29

Forwards: 2/19

Over the next couple of weeks (or how long it takes me to finish this), I’m going to look at each Washington Capitals player individually and grade them on their performance in the 2010-11 season. I figured that I should go alphabetically by their first names, so it’s only fitting that the face of the franchise and team captain Alex Ovechkin is the first player I look at.

I won’t sugarcoat this, this was a down year for Ovechkin production wise. Career lows in goals, points, powerplay goals and just about every other statistical category you can name. Washington fans have very high expectations for Ovechkin and rightfully so. He has scored over 45 goals every year since he’s been in the league and has three 50+ goal seasons in a row. This year there was a pretty big drop-off in his production offensively as he only netted 32 goals and was scoring at less than a goal per 60 minutes rate (.99 G/60). Verizon definitely picked a bad year for their “Ovechktrick” campaign since, as trivial as it is, Ovie only had one hat trick this season and his goal total would equal three Ovechktricks plus five more goals.

Make no mistake about it, Ovechkin is still an elite goal scorer and the catalyst of this team but it’s hard for me to say that I wasn’t disappointed in his production this season. What’s the reasoning for it? Numerous bloggers have been looking for the reasoning behind this and there have been a few different answers. One of which suggests that his shooting percentage is regressing towards the league average, which would be a reasonable explanation since his shooting percentage was a ridiculous 14.7% last year. This year it has plummeted down to 8.7%, a career low and well below his career average. If you look at his goals compared to shots on goal, he has a career shooting percentage of 11.9%, so if he shot at that rate this year, he would have about 44 goals. Better but still a career low for him. That brings us to another suggestion saying Ovechkin is shooting the puck less, and he did this year as 367 shots was his lowest total (albeit by only one shot). Also of note is that despite him shooting the puck less, OV still had more shots than the rest of the league.    Gabe from Behind the Net Hockey brought up an interesting point showing that Ovechkin wasn’t shooting from his usual spots of the rink (which is the general scoring chance area of between the face-off circles and a lower shooting percentage resulted from it. He had a severe regression any way you want to cut it.

One other thing that was brought up was that Ovechkin took it upon himself to be more responsible in his own zone, play better defensively and be more of a “team player,” and some games it looked like that. He was making good plays in the neutral zone to create turnovers and was 4th on the team in takeaways. You will also notice in the Behind the Net link I posted earlier that his zone starts actually went down from 55% in the offensive zone to 51%, showing that Boudreau used him more in defensive situations. Interesting to think about because the Canucks do the exact opposite with their top players and it seems to have worked out for them. It could also have to do with him playing on a line with a good two-way center like Nicklas Backstrom, who also had more defensive zone starts this season. I will bring this up in a later post but having a center who can take a lot of defensive zone draws is on my wish-list this July. For what it’s worth, the Behind the Net link also shows that Ovechkin was on ice for more goals this season than last year.

Back to Ovechkin, while he was using his linemates more this season (the high primary assist totals earlier in the season show that), there were definitely moments where he was trying to do too much on his own, which led to bad things. See the ending of game 1 of the Lightning series and both games 3 and 4. I do not deny that he was playing his heart out but it seems that he is starting to see his limits and still has some learning to do when it comes to not panicking in those situations, something a team captain needs to learn.

Despite Ovechkin’s production dropping off, he still led the team in goals, assists and points. He also had more points per 60 minutes than any other regular player on the team. As I noted earlier, he is the catalyst for this team and if he is playing well, then the rest of the team usually follows suit. That was a big reason why the Caps finished 19th in goals scored instead of at the top of the league where they usually are. Same goes for their powerplay, which generated a lot of chances but finishing them was another story. Despite that, Washington still finished 1st in the Eastern Conference but had another playoff failure in the second round. Was that Ovechkin’s fault? Nope. 5 goals and 10 points in 9 games isn’t anything to sneeze at but you could always argue that he could have done more. It is weird because he didn’t have that great of a series against the Rangers, but the team around him produced which is why we won. In the Tampa Bay series, it looked like and a couple others were trying to do everything, which ended in a 4-game sweep. Becoming more obvious that as good as he is, he can’t win games on his own.

Now the difficult part is grading him on this year. If I’m grading on expectations, I would give him a C for the lack of production. 32 goals and 85 points is nothing to sneeze at but for someone with his skill and talent, he could have done a lot more. If he was any other player, he would probably get a B or maybe even an A for a season like this, but we have come to expect more from the Great Eight. That said, he was still the spark plug  of the team and definitely had his moments (this one in particular was nice), so I will give Ovechkin a C+ on the year.

I do have higher expectations for him next year, though. Mostly because I have a feeling that he will rebound and possibly get to that 45 goal mark again.


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