Taking a Shot at Alex Ovechkin?

Pop question Caps Fans: Who is tied for 5th in Power Play Goals for the Washington Capitals this season?

Alex Ovechkin, with 2

Here’s an easier one: Who is 3rd on the Caps in Goals Scored?

Yep, Ovie again, with 10.

And at this point in the season, everyone knows that Ovie, shockingly enough, currently leads the team in assists. Why are we paying Nick Backstrom the big bucks again?

It’s a fairly well known fact that so far this season, Alex Ovechkin simply isn’t himself. Despite the fact that Ovechkin is still projected to reach the 100 point plateau for the 4th consecutive season, everyone seems to be focused on one statistic: goals. With 10 goals through his first 27 games, Alex is on pace for only 30 goals this season, a full 16 goals off his previous low and a drop off of 20 goals from last season. So the question is: Why? Is Ovechkin taking fewer shots? Are opposing teams blocking more of his shots than in previous seasons? Is he simply missing the net more often?

Let’s take a look.

SEASON GP SOG BLOCKED MISSED

TOTAL ATTEMPTED

GOALS SH% SH/G SB/G MS/G TS/G OVERALL SH%
2010-2011 27 117 61 50 228 10 8.55% 4.3 2.3 1.9 8.4 4.39%
2009-2010 72 368 187 172 727 50 13.59% 5.1 2.6 2.4 10.1 6.88%
2008-2009 79 528 179 220 927 56 10.61% 6.7 2.3 2.8 11.7 6.04%
2007-2008 82 446 175 199 820 65 14.57% 5.4 2.1 2.4 10.0 7.93%
3 SEA AVG 07-10 77.7 447.3 180.3 197 824.7 57 12.92% 5.7 2.3 2.5 10.6 6.95%

What this all means, after the jump.

 

Through 27 games, Ovie has an 8.55% shooting percentage, well off his previous three year average of 12.92%. Coupled with the fact that his shots on goal per game are down 1.4 shots from his average, the lack of Ovie-like goal totals makes sense. Simply adjusting Alex’s shots per game to his three season average (while maintaining his shooting %) would raise his goals up to 13. That more like it.

 

So where are those extra 1.4 shots hiding? Taking a look at Ovie’s Shots Blocked numbers shows he’s right on his average of 2.3 blocked shots per game. So much for the argument that teams picked up on Montreal’s ‘block everything’ strategy in last season’s playoffs and have figured Alex out. As far as Missed Shots go, Ovechkin’s per game total is actually lower than his average by over half a shot. Panes of glass everywhere are a little safer this season (until Ovie passes to Semin, that is).

As hard as it may be to believe, Alex Ovechkin is simply taking fewer shots this season. As Caps fans, we’ve become accustomed to watching Alex take over and single-handedly win games. This season’s version of Alex is more likely to include teammates rather than throw them on his back. This season’s version is playing better defense. He’s passing more. This season’s version is acting as a decoy to allow his skilled linemates to go hunting.

Only three forwards on the current roster (rookies excluded) are on pace to match or surpass their goal totals from last season: Backstrom, Alex Semin and Matt Hendricks. But at 18-7-2 and at the top of the pack in the NHL, the Caps are doing a lot of other things well.

And so is Alex Ovechkin.

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