After being shut out by the Southeast Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time in 8 days, many fans are wondering where the offensive juggernaut of the 2009-10 season has gone. It’s no secret that Alex Ovechkin’s goal totals are down, Nicklas Backstrom has been non-existent, and Alexander Semin hasn’t registered on the radar since late November and is now saddled with an injury. Everyone, it seems, has their own answer: Fans have suggested that Ovechkin is a year older, heavier, and unwilling to make plays that might result in suspension. Caps’ Coach Bruce Boudreau might theorize it’s a newly-implemented system that is more defense focused. In a recent interview, Ted Leonsis states the Caps are merely “pacing themselves.” However, as the Capitals find themselves battling back from a deficit nearly every night are there any hard-and-fast answers behind the drought of lamp lighting?
Last year, the Capitals were averaging 3.61 goals/game 44 games into the season, quite the opposite of this seasons’ squad who averages 2.82. Of course injury, strength of schedule, ice time and line combinations may play some part of the decrease, but is there any hard-and-fast answer to the Caps’ lack of lamp lighting?
Washington’s struggling Power Play is hardly news. Currently ranked 17th overall at a success rate of 18.0% 44 games into the 2010-11 season, this year’s squad pales in comparison to the 2009-2010 team. At this point last season, the Caps had converted 41-of-172 attempts with the man advantage – good for 23.8%. The drought seems to have affected everyone: #8’s output on the PP has dropped from 7 goals to 2 this season, Backstrom dropped from 7 to 4, and even spread to Brooks Laich (from 6 to 4).
Although the struggles of the Caps’ stars is not groundbreaking, much like the PP woes, it is still notable. 44 games into the 09/10 season, the Caps had 24 multi-goal games – 17 of which belonged to Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom. This season, the Caps can only claim 12. Additionally, where Semin and Green’s goal totals equal that of last seasons’ at this point, Ovie (27 vs 15) and Lars (17 vs 11) are well below 09/10’s totals. Ovechkin is on pace for a 27-55-82 season; Backstrom 20-52-72.
Scoring chances could be a direct result of Boudreau’s new defensively minded system, but are their other underlying issues? Before his injury, there were grumblings that Semin was benefiting from countryman help during his “contract year”? Is Nicky B coasting now that his big deal has been inked? Has Ovie’s partying finally caught up to him? Are the players being spread too thin between HBO, team events, and various sponsorship engagements? Are the players staging a silent protest against GMGM for trading Flash? Much like other conspiracy theories, they’re fun to speculate about but the fact remains the same: the goals just aren’t there.