This photo of Beagle and Ovi celebrating a goal is from 2012. (Photo: Molly Riley)
As reported by Adam Vingan, Alex Ovechkin failed to get a single even-strength point in March. He finished the month in grand style by getting outshot* 15 to 5 against the Nashville Predators. Ovechkin is still the favorite to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored during the regular season, but when that happens it won’t be because of what’s happening during even-strength play. Ovi’s struggles with puck possession mirror those of the Capitals overall, but what’s happened in the last two weeks is particularly noteworthy.
Since March 16th, Ovechkin has shared the top line with Jay Beagle. Usually a fourth liner, Beagle’s promotion up the ranks has been surprising, though not totally unexpected. Injuries to Mikhail Grabovski and Brooks Laich depleted Adam Oates’ options at the center position. The big road trip in California gave Oates another reason to boost Beagle: splitting up Backstrom and Ovechkin should have created two scoring lines that would have made match-ups harder for home teams.
It didn’t turn out that way. Possession and production among the top six has been scant, and the Ovechkin-Beagle pairing has been the worst of all.
Ovechkin and Beagle have played together for 87 minutes of 5v5 this season, 71 minutes of it since the Leafs game on March 16th. Ovi and Beagle played just five minutes together that night, and Ovechkin tilted the ice in the Caps’ favor with 53.8 percent possession. Not bad, though I’m pretty sure you and me could take shifts against Toronto and manage at least 50%.
Since that night, Ovechkin has not cracked even possession once. He’s been under 45 percent four times, under 40 twice, and under 30 once– against Nashville. Ovi has hardly been in the offensive zone in the past two weeks.
In that time, Ovi has been on the ice for 0 Caps goals and 6 opponent goals. His line has been outshot 100 to 77*. If Beagle and Ovi were a single player, their possession rating would put them equal with Steve Ott, somewhere around the 9th percentile of forwards.
Those numbers, once again:
|0||Caps goals scored while Ovechkin and Beagle on ice|
|6||Opponent goals scored while Ovechkin and Beagle on ice|
|0%||Caps goal ratio while Ovechkin and Beagle on ice|
|77||Caps shot attempts generated while Ovechkin and Beagle on ice|
|100||Opponent shot attempts generated while Ovechkin and Beagle on ice|
|44%||Caps puck possession while Ovechkin and Beagle on ice|
|44%||Also Steve Ott’s puck possession|
Adam Oates had good intentions putting Beagle and Ovi together in the first place, but after a game or two of abysmal results he should have made a change. He did not. He kept the greatest scorer in the world next to a guy with 14 career assists. That decision, in willful ignorance of the facts, has cost the Capitals goals, wins, and a good chance at the playoffs.
That’s your head coach of the Washington Capitals, Adam Oates.
* I mean shot attempts, not just shots on goal. The cool kids are calling it corsi.