Breaking Up The Band

Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

Stop me if you heard this one before: Boudreau is making line changes. Not exactly Yoko and the Beatles, but it looks like Ovi and Backstrom are being split up. Again. Will it make a difference?

Tough to say. Last year the numbers suggested Backstrom needed Ovechkin way more than the reverse, but this year the numbers at even strength are not so clear.

Combo SCF SCA GF GA SC% Convert% Sv%
Ovi + Backstrom 165 122 25 18 57.5% 15.2% 85.2%
Ovi w/o Backstrom 193 161 28 23 54.5% 14.5% 85.7%
Backstrom w/o Ovi 186 149 28 24 55.5% 15.1% 83.9%

SCF = scoring chances for, SCA = scoring chances against, GF = goals for, GA = goals against, SC% = Percentage of scoring chances in Caps favor, Convert% = Goals scored off chances for, Save% = Goals prevented off chances against

Not much of a difference, eh? Chances go about the same. Converting and preventing on those chances are about the same. Yawn. Perhaps it is just regression to the mean after all?

There have been some line combos that have worked during 5v5 with Ovechkin and Backstrom:

Combo TOI SC% Convert% Sv% GF/60 SCF/60
8-19-22 277.2 58.0% 9.2% 84.1% 1.73 18.8
8-19-28 162.2 57.4% 20.4% 82.5% 4.07 20.0
8-19-21 29.7 85.0% 17.6% 100.0% 6.05 34.3
8-19-16 25.7 61.9% 23.1% 100.0% 7.00 30.3

The Ovi-Backstrom-Semin line is exactly what you would expect: fun-n-gun with scant regard for defense, putting only slightly more than half of the chances in the Caps’ favor while producing 4 goals (GF/60) off 20 chances (SCF/60) per 60 minutes of ice time. The “sweet spot” looks to be the line with Laich and the Dynamic Duo, which would leave Knuble and Semin on the second line with either MP85 or MJ90. Unfortunately, there has been only a handful of minutes for these lines this season. Maybe they offset the opportunity cost of moving Laich to the first line, maybe not — we’ll have to wait and see.

As for Saturday’s line combo of Ovechkin – Johansson – Laich? Only one chance against over 17 minutes of ice time. I guess we’ll know more Saturday on this line as well.

  • Tim

    I think it’s worth splitting Ovie and Backs temporarily. I have no problem with MoJo being on the top line in that case, because MP is probably going to be out. MoJo has also been playing well the last few games and creating chances – I think he can set Ovie up for some goals, as long as Ovie can get a good shot off. Hopefully the cortisone shot he got helps.

    As for Backs, maybe being pushed down a line will help him get his game back. Even with Knuble and Semin, that is still a dangerous line. The Caps need to get a 2C who can win faceoffs to take some pressure off Backs. He’s taking too many defensive zone faceoffs due to the low percentages of MP and MoJo.

  • TATA

    Why not ? There are lots of time for experimentation ; but the OvBaSe line should become a motor of the team ! Many questions about their physical form….Though I think they’ll be OK to playoff ! Better to change lines today than at 3rd period of 7th game ..don’t recall the last playoff to night !

  • mattthebeerguy

    Split the overrated bums and pair them with the young guns.

  • Jenna

    @matt – Please be more specific. For the past month, the overrated bums ARE the young guns, statistically speaking.

  • The Horn Guy

    Something that’s been nagging at me all season is Backstrom’s performance. Is he hurt? Is he less motivated? Or are other teams just more accustomed to his habits and able to beat him to the punch?

    I see him losing a lot more faceoffs, I’ve watched him making less effective plays and getting a lot fewer points than in previous seasons. The media, the fans, and the casual observers are all speaking of Ovechkin’s drastically lower production but I don’t hear a lot about Nicky. Is it too early to be concerned about this?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Russian Machine Never Breaks

    @The Horn Guy: 73% of Backstrom’s points to date are from assists and 58% from last year (his best season so far) were either on Ovi or Knuble goals. As they go, Backstrom goes.

    -Neil

  • 28ISGREAT

    Backstrom and Ovechkin are now the “Dynamic Duo”? Poor Sasha Minor – always a bridesmaid…