NoVa Caps has been preparing key “player previews” for the upcoming season as the Washington Capitals begin to gear up for the start of training camp in two weeks. Today, we continue our previews with left winger and team captain, Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin’s goal total dipped to 33 goals last season, after having scored 50 or more goals in each of the last three seasons. His assist total rose to 36 this year, after having only 21 assists during the 2015-2016 season. His point total of 69 was just two less than his total from the previous season.
Ovechkin was tied for the team lead in goals with T.J. Oshie, and ranked second on the team in points behind center Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin played in all 82 regular season games and all 13 playoff games and finished the playoffs having scored five goals and three assists for eight points; three of his goals came against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1, and the other two against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Ovechkin’s time on ice, along with that of Backstrom and other top-line players was intentionally reduced last season by Head Coach Barry Trotz, in the hopes that he would have more energy for the playoffs and the team would advance past Round 2, but that did not happen. During the playoffs, Ovechkin injured his hamstring; an injury that he later revealed needed numbing injections to allow him to continue playing. The injuries were part of the reason that Trotz moved him down to the third-line, with Andre Burakovsky taking his place on the top-line. In fact, the injuries also prevented him from playing with Team Russia in the IIHF World Championships.
Ovechkin achieved an important milestone during the season, earning the 1,000th point of his career, which came on January 12, 2017, in a home game against the Penguins. He scored a goal 35 seconds into the contest, getting the shot past then-Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead in a game they eventually won 5-2.
Ovechkin turns 32 on September 17, and due to his sharp decline in goals, the question is whether the inevitable decline in productivity due to age has already begun. Many in the hockey analytics community have figured out that, on average, forwards have their best points per game rate at age 24 and that there is a gradual decline after that, one that states at age 30, a player will score at 90% of his peak scoring rate. After that, declines are sharper, during which they score 80% at age 31, and then 70% at ages 32 and 33. Many of the models have suggested that Ovechkin could continue declining and never approach 50 goals again. The data also indicates that power play scoring does not decline as sharply as even-strength scoring. During 2016-2017, Ovechkin scored 26 of his 33 goals on the power play, with many of those goals scored on the one-timer from his “Office”. Other suggestions given for him to increase his scoring, include modifying his game so that he gets closer to the net.
Ovechkin has already reported to Kettler Capitals Iceplex and is reported to be more svelte than in the past. With that, there is hope that he could have more speed and maintain or even improve his scoring. He and center Backstrom will face a test in leadership this season, as they try to mentor and integrate young players like Jakub Vrana into the top-six. He will also be expected to contribute more at even-strength, as the Caps lost a number of key offensive contributors this summer, such as Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson.
Alex Ovechkin’s Top Play of 2016-17
More of This
Oveckhin has always possessed great offensive talent and a deadly shot. With the loss of the aforementioned players on offense, Ovechkin will need to use his offensive talent to create scoring chances for not only himself, but his teammates as well. Ovechkin will also need to use his creativity to put himself into position to score. He also showed great leadership during the playoffs and regular season, and with the likely addition of a few young prospects this season, Ovechkin will need to continue that.
Less of This
If the Caps make the playoffs, everyone with rooting interest in them would like to see less playoff injuries to Ovechkin. A healthy Ovechkin is critical to any success in the playoffs. Ovechkin also struggled with turnovers last season, recording 46 giveaways. Ovechkin will need to be a little less careless with the puck and maintain control, especially in the offensive zone.
Key Goals for the Season:
Ovechkin will need to continue his current offensive productivity to remain an effective player for the Caps. He may need to adapt his game, especially at even-strength, to maintain his goal-scoring totals. He will need to stay healthy and not miss too many games, which has generally been the case during his career. He will also be looked on as a mentor to young players, such as Burakovsky, Vrana, and others. He will also need to limit the amount of turnovers he commits. In essence, Ovechkin will need:
- continue his offensive productivity and score more at even-strength
- reduce the amount of turnovers he commits
- take on a mentor-like role to any young prospects that make the team
- stay healthy as he enters his 13th NHL season
Will Alex Ovechkin Remain Alone on Olympics Island?
How To Get Alex Ovechkin To 40-50 Goals Again
With Fresh New Faces, the Ovechkin-Era Washington Capitals Continue to Change and Evolve
Other Player Previews:
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Philipp Grubauer
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Devante Smith-Pelly
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Braden Holtby
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Brett Connolly
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Nicklas Backstrom
Washington Capitals Player Preview: John Carlson
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Dmitry Orlov
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Matt Niskanen
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Lars Eller
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Tom Wilson
Washington Capitals Player Preview: T.J. Oshie
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Andre Burakovsky