There are a lot of excuses reasons why Alex Ovechkin isn’t performing like we know the Great 8 can, but the one that really makes me scratch my head is when people say that he is “saving himself” for the playoffs.

I would have to think if a player can score goals, then he would score goals – especially if, let’s say, the team was to get mired in a prolonged non-win streak or the power play was just, well, not powerful.

I decided to look at all skaters since the lockout who played in back to back years, with the 2nd year also having playoff performance. There were 1,155 players that fit this criteria.

I also grouped skaters by goal totals in groups of ten. So 20-goal scorers were lumped together, 30-goal scorers, etc. Then I grouped them by how much of an improvement or decline they saw from year “y” to “y+1.” To keep the focus on star performers, I am interested in 30+ goal scorers.

Out of the 1,155 skaters in the pool, 75 were 30+ goal scorers who saw a year over year decrease in production but were for one reason or another not able to “turn it on” during the playoffs. Maybe they were hurt, maybe they were defended differently, maybe they just couldn’t do it.

I then narrowed it down to skaters that saw their goals per game (G/Gm) decline from one year (y) to the next (y+1), but see an increase in G/Gm during the playoffs. For example, if a player scored .5 goals per game during the 2009 regular season, then dipped to .3 goals per game during the 2010 regular season only to return to .4 goals per game in the 2010 playoffs, I logged those numbers. So not only did they have to have a decline in regular season production year over year, but they also had to perform better in the playoffs.

There were 215 players out of the pool of 1,155 that matched this criteria, but only ten skaters scored 30 or more goals during the regular season. Incidentally, Ovechkin is currently at 49% of last year’s goals per game totals.

% Decline Goals scored level G/Gm (y) G/Gm (y+1) Plyff G/Gm Players
31-40% 31-60 0.55 0.37 0.6 S Gagne, B Gionta, D Alfredsson, J Iginla
41-50% 31-60 0.48 0.27 0.37 J Arnott, M Sundin, P Marleau, S Doan, J Jagr
51%+ 31-60 0.4 0.18 0.36 S Gomez

So, only one out of nine “star” players have been able to “turn it on” during the playoffs. My math may be off, but it looks like it happens way less often than people think.

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  • Skibrent

    The problem isn’t that Ovi isn’t scoring. The problem is that his whole game lacks the fire that made him great. I don’t know what caused this, but I trace it back to that period last year where Ovi was named Captain, drew his first suspension and then suffered an embarrassing personal and team performance at the Olympics. What has always made Ovi great and one of the most exciting players in hockey (and what inevitably led to goals) was his fearless and manic play on the ice. I don’t know if he has dialed it back on purpose or whether he simply lacks the same fire, but he is clearly skating with more caution and even passivity that we did not see in his first 4 years on the ice. I hope he can recapture that spark or else I don’t see much changing over the rest of the season.

  • Colin

    I think he’s been playing hurt for most of the season. He shots don’t have the same snap as in previous years. CI today says he is skating in practice with a no-contact jersey. Maybe it would be best to give him a week or 10 days off to properly heal? http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalsinsider/alex-ovechkin/alex-ovechkin-wearing-no-conta.html

  • @Colin

    Russian machine NEVER breaks. It says so on the masthead.


  • Colin

    Maybe the Russian Machine just needs a 10 day “Tune Up” 😉

  • BobbyG

    Short and sweet: no, I don’t think athletes, even star athletes, can just flip a switch and “turn it on” during the playoffs. They might find another gear, but preparation and pacing has to start in the regular season. So I’m not buying into the theory that Ovie is “saving himself” for the postseason.

    Injury to his left hand/wrist now seems to be the most likely culprit for the dramatic drop-off in his scoring goals. Corey Masisak at NHL.com reported today that Ovie received a cortisone shot shortly after the Caps loss to the Bolts Tuesday night, and he wore a non-contact jersey at practice this morning. Check out http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=548607 plus Katie Carrera’s report in WaPo http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalsinsider/alex-ovechkin/alex-ovechkin-needed-cortisone.html. The Alex Ovetjkin blog also has more details about this story.

  • BobbyG

    Oops, sorry for repeating and neglecting to acknowledge what Colin already said about Ovie’s injury and cortisone shot.

  • DarkStranger44


    I’m not surprised to hear that something’s wrong with Ovi, given that he needed a cortisone shot. Guys don’t just suddenly lose productivity for no reason. He had gotten off to a decent start this year so the “dialing back” theory may not be applicable. But then he hasn’t done much since early November.

  • DarkStranger44


    For a long time there was the theory that Ovi was injured during the Nashville game back in October, as in a slash to the wrist. But nothing was ever announced. Now the belief is that his injury is, indeed to the hand/wrist area. And he’s obviously played with that injury since then and, no coincidence, he hasn’t done well since then.

    Get well soon, Ovi.

  • Colin

    @DarkStranger44 – Good memory. I’d say he’s probably got a sprained left wrist. It would account for his wrist shot not being what it usually is. I hope they can think about giving him a week or so of rest. The team is good without him and almost unbeatable if he is back to his old self.

  • BobbyG

    IMO Ovie should have rested soon after he was injured. He isn’t the same player w/o his devastating wrist shot. The Caps have shown they can win w/o him in the lineup for a while. I’d prefer he take care of himself now and not let this injury get any worse.

    Now that the cat’s out of the bag about his injury, how long will it take for opposing teams to go after him, slashing if necessary and risking penalties, because the Caps power play isn’t working. The Caps have to get the PP going to discourage this type of play, and Ovie needs to take time to rest and heal so he’ll be more effective for the Caps playoff run.

  • Tim

    What people are saying about the wrist has been noted and discussed for a while on some Caps sites. Shea Weber got a very hard slash on Ovie’s left wrist in that game, and Ovie has shown discomfort constantly since. Fairly often, he can be seen shaking or massaging his left wrist.

    I would dispute that Ovie got off to a decent start. He did have a 3-game goal streak at the beginning of the season, but immediately went into a 5-game goalless streak. He has also had goalless streaks of 8 and 9 games since. For the entire season, his shot has been off – especially his wrister. The Caps should give him off for the next 2 games (both against Florida) and re-evaluate him before the Tampa game.

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