Now that the Capitals have completed the first 30 games of the season, and the Caps are on a mini-break until Wednesday in Philadelphia, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the status of a few things, and what better place to start than at the top, with “The Great 8“. What’s ailing Alex Ovechkin, if anything?
The numbers certainly suggest that Ovechkin is on pace for one of his least productive seasons in five years.
JUST THE FACTS:
What we know about Alex Ovechkin’s season through the first 30 games:
- 14 goals (1st on Caps, tied for 7th in the league).
- 23 points (2nd on Caps, tied for 37th in the league).
- Shot Percentage: 11.7% (7th on Caps, 180th in the league).
- 24 PIMs (2nd on Caps behind Tom Wilson, 86th in the league).
It should be noted, that when listing league rankings, the Caps have still played fewer games than a good number of teams in the NHL.
BREAKING IT DOWN:
With 14 goals through 30 games (8 even strength, 6 power play). Ovechkin is on a pace to score 38 goals this season. The last time Ovechkin scored 38 goals or less was the 2011-2012 season (38). Ovechkin has already elapsed a stretch of 7 games this season without a goal.
One issue is even-strength goals, as is the case with the entire team. Alex is struggling as of late, scoring just two even-strength goals in the last month (11/16 -12/16), a span of 14 games.
Ovechkin is on pace to shoot 328 shots this season. That’s 70 shots less than last season (398) or an 18% reduction. His current shot percentage of 11.7% is 0.7 less than his career average (12.4%). A mere 5.5% reduction.
With 24 PIMs, Ovechkin is on pace for 66 PIMs for the season, his highest total since the 2009-2010 season (89 PIMs).
Alex Ovechkin can certainly ramp-up his game fairly quickly, as he’s done so many times in the past. In the past, Alex has proven he can score goals in bunches, seemingly at will. However, things seem a bit different this time around, and not necessarily directly related to Ovi’s game. The differences?
The team as a whole is struggling offensively, which lends one to believe their may be systemic issues involved. Whether that’s team preparations, game planning or general approach to the game, only time will tell.
The Metropolitan Division is stacked. The Capitals will have a higher concentration of better competition than in years past as the Caps begin to trudge through their Metropolitan games.
An Aging System:
As a result of last seasons epic performance, Alex Ovechkin and company are now “schedule-circles”, meaning teams consider games with the Caps as “measuring stick” games and prepare accordingly. As a result, teams are figuring out the best way to stymie the Caps offense, how to defend each player.
An Aging Ovi:
Another fact, as each day passes we are one day closer to Ovechkin’s retirement. Recent data suggests that NHL players “prime years” are getting younger, as younger and younger players enter the league. The current prime of an NHL players career is 27 years of age. Ovechkin, now 31, will inevitably start to show a decline in his stats at some point. It’s just a fact of life.
A leading indicator will be the decline of Ovechkin’s shot speed. This will require him to move in for more close-range, gritty goals, which he has already shown a sign of doing this season.
THE NEXT 30
The next 30 games will tell us a lot about Alex and his game, as the Capitals continue to do battle with the Metropolitan Division. Any lethargic residue from last seasons disappointing finish, or the early start for the World Cup of Hockey should be gone as the team starts to set its sights on spring and the playoffs. It’s “go time”, if you will.
If it is indeed, “all down hill from here” for Ovechkin, it’s certainly going to be a Black Diamond run.
By Jon Sorensen