Alex Ovechkin: 2013-14 Season Review

Alex Ovechkin is the face of the Washington Capitals. In 2013-14 he scored more goals than anyone else. He also got more criticism than anyone else. Why? And what’s next for the world’s most explosive scorer, now about to play under his fifth coach and exiting his prime scoring years?

By the Numbers

78 Games played
20.1 Average time on ice per game
51 Goals
28 Assists
49.3% Shot attempt percentage during 5v5
36.2% Goal percentage during 5v5
6.0% On-ice shooting percentage during 5v5
90.6% On-ice saving percentage during 5v5

Peter’s Take

Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals. Any discussion of his season needs to begin and end with that statement. Only 18 players have cracked 50 in the last decade, and five of them are Ovi. If you’re formulating an argument about why Alex Ovechkin is not a world-class hockey player, lemme stop you right there. He is– though he’s certainly been through the wringer this year. And last year. And the one before that. And really in every year all the way back to when folks decided he needed to change his game in the first place.

If you add up a player’s on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage, you get a made-up stat called PDO. When the number is below 100, that means the player is seeing bad results usually independent of their individual effort. Ovi’s PDO this season was 96.5, in the 6th percentile among full-time forwards. Despite unloading shots at a top-3 clip, Ovi still got outscored during 5v5. That suggests the problems are a) luck-driven and bound to self-correct, b) systemic and should be addressed by tactical and lineup changes, or c) an indication that the player is an uncoachable coach-killer who kills coaches and likes it. C is the flimsiest conclusion and also the most repeated. Some combination of A and B seems more reasonable to me.

Something clearly isn’t working on that top line. Marcus Johansson’s contribution to the cause is astonishingly understated (via zone entries and little else), and even Nick Backstrom has seen diminishing returns when playing as Ovi’s pivot. Incoming coach Barry Trotz will be judged first and foremost on how he deals with this problem. Playing Jay Beagle next to Ovi, switching his wing, or assigning him PK time will not be acceptable responses.

It’s been a litany of stuff that has turned Ovechkin from the most dynamic scorer in the league into a PDO piñata. Some of that stuff is personnel, some of it is tactical, and some of it is individual. It’s a complicated puzzle and if you solve it, you get a buttload of goals and wins and a delighted fanbase and a happy superstar franchise player.

But if your solution to the puzzle is to change him into a backchecking, penalty-killing guy who kind of resembles that guy who used to be Ovi, then we’d all be better off if you trade him.

I spent this whole thing talking about even strength, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ovechkin’s excellent work on the power play, where he scored nearly half of his goals. The power play formulation, which was either a genius stroke by Adam Oates or just a completely reasonable correction after Dale Hunter’s ineptitude, was built around Alex Ovechkin’s slapshot. That slapper is good for a goal on every fifth shot. The Ovi Spot (which I coined, yay me) doesn’t seem to have been solved by the rest of the league yet. For that reason, let’s hope the Caps are wise enough to keep feeding at the trough. And maybe they can find a way to get Ovi into that position for a one-timer during 5v5 play as well. (Hint: it would require him carrying the puck less.)

I’ve got a million more thoughts about Ovi, but I wanna get you down to the links and GIFs. A few quick thoughts:

  • Left wing vs right wing? Yeah, I don’t think it made a big difference.
  • Alex will be 29 this year and unofficially exiting his prime scoring years; we’ll need to deal with that reality like people who aren’t entitled jerks.
  • Ovi is from Russia, which is not in North America, and he therefore places different cultural value on international tournaments. This is an okay thing and not cause to harass him online.
  • If you play the way a coach asks you to play and then you play less well, you are not a coach-killer. You are merely a weapon with which a coach killed himself.
  • Ovi played 93 percent of the Caps’ power play time this season. During the power play, you cannot earn a plus; you can earn only a minus. Being a PP expert means you’re more likely to get burned by the stat.
  • Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals.

Ovi on RMNB

Here we go.

In Pictures

Pics with Chick Fil-a cow. Can you even? Because I can’t even.

The Ovi Spot. And again. And again.

This next one, with Sidney Crosby, I dunno, looks clean to me.

Can we talk about Ovi’s push-up form? Any personal trainers in the audience?

Leadership:

And dipping out in the middle of a shift because SEE YA

It doesn’t get any more JOKES than this. Eat your hearts out, jokesters.

This is more of an Alex Semin thing, but it’s too great not to use here.

Your Turn

How much responsibility does Ovi bear for missing the playoffs? What do you think Ovi under Trotz will look like? Who would you like to see next to Ovi on the top line? What’s Ovi’s biggest tactical problem during 5v5 play?

Read more: Japers Rink

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  • DashingDave314

    I want to see Kuznetsov with Ovechkin on the top line. Everybody else has failed, why not give him a chance? Plus Kuzy is actually, you know, good.

  • Darla

    wringer. As in wringer washers, which apparently predate you.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    you just made that up

  • Darla

    Not even. Never doubt me, Peter.

  • THEOLDROT

    Trade him NOW! He might net the Caps a decent AHL player.

  • Ryan

    OMG i can not believe i must have missed the game against the canes where Ovi absolutely obliterated Semin, who went flipping through air and face first into Grabo’s elbo, that is GIF is awesome

  • Owen Johnson

    “The Ovi Spot (which I coined, yay me) doesn’t seem to have been solved by the rest of the league yet.”

    I think the other teams have solved it. Goalies and D-men cheat over to Ovi’s side all the time. The scary part (and by scary, I mean awesome) is that he STILL scores goals.

    You can not stop Ovi on the Power Play. You can only hope to contain him.

  • Owen Johnson

    Ovi doesn’t bear much responsibility for us missing the Playoffs. That’s, like 99% Oates. Hopefully he can thrive under Trotz’s system, but I hope Trotz has enough sense to NOT CHANGE THE PP AT ALL!

  • VeggieTart

    Nobody with any sense is suggesting anyone turn Ovi into a backchecking, penalty-killing shadow of his former self. The one good thing Oates did was ensure Ovi’s lethalness on the power play. Scoring from the left faceoff dot, I might add. But he could stand to shore up his defense a bit and be stronger in his own zone so fewer pucks end up in Holtby’s face or, worse, behind him.

  • Jimmie

    I miss the goal-crashing, Gill-stampeding, board-shaking, Jagr-devouring, Ovechkin. Remember that one game when he hulked-out and checked the entire forward line of the other team into paste? Remember when Ovi would get his hackles up and become, just once in a while, a puck-seeking missile that would destroy all he touched?

    I want that guy back just a little bit more.

  • Jimmie

    Kapooyah!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fp_Hg9z2rc

    And this! This is what I was talking about. Bruins everywhere!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDFpU_tFae0

  • Matt Lauer

    Honestly, I don’t think the prospect of Ovechkin failing to hit 50 goals again should be a huge concern. If he were to go the next five years scoring 35-40 each year, that would still be an excellent contribution *PROVIDED* the team around him were also regular contributors. The team would be much better if Ovi scored 35, while Grabo scored 25, Nicky scored 20, Wilson scored 20, Kuzya scored 20, Green scored 13-15, and even Burakovsky came in and scored 20. The sort of imbalance we’ve seen explains why you can score 50 goals and still have idiot commentators blame you for not single-handedly winning the Cup for your team.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Lots of people are suggesting Ovi needs to become a two-way player. Both Hunter and Oates tried him on the PK.

    The crucial distinction that people miss is this: we want Ovi playing LESS defense, not just BETTER defense.

  • JH

    My favorite topic: Who should share the top line with Ovi. Answer: Not Mojo. Needs to be someone who scores goals. And has speed. Kuzya? Fehr? Part of me wants a second line of Kuzya-Grabo-Wilson, so that makes me lean Fehr with Nicky and Ovi. But I also can’t count out Brouwer….

    (PS, what does Trotz selection mean for our chances of re-signing Grabo???? But I digress).

  • Matt McNeely

    I want to see Joel Ward and Nicki Backstrom with Ovechkin on the top line. I’ve mentioned this idea before around here. I’m standing by it. This is my solution to Ovi’s 5v5. It’s all about possessing the puck better when Ovi is on the ice. Ovechkin isn’t suddenly going to become a strong possession player. He must rely on his linemates. Wardo and Nicki are the two strongest guys on the puck currently on the Caps roster, and would be so on any roster in the NHL – Wardo because he literally wins every board battle, Nicki because he’s incredibly smart and skilled carrying and distributing the puck. This is less about Ovi and more about unleashing the possession monster that I am 100% certain a Ward-Backstrom pairing would be. Then you just plug in the World’s Greatest Shot and the rest, I am sure, will take care of itself. It seem so obvious. Wardo/Nicki = possession monster = more zone time = more shots = more shots for Ovi = more goals for and, in all likelihood, less goals against = problem solved.

  • Rob W.

    Am I a bad person for wishing Ovi elbowed crosby harder in the face

  • tpr04

    IMO, you touched upon the biggest contributor to Ovie’s poor +/- : Mojo. How many ES goals would you expect from your top line off winger playing with Ovie and Backstrom. I would say around 20 goals.

    How many ES goals did Mojo score as 1L, playing in about 60-65 games at that spot? ZERO.

    If he had produced 20 goals, subtract that from Ovie’s -35 and you’ve got a -15, which is not great, but not nearly as bad. Also, how many times did Mojo fail to contain, lose the puck on a check, make one too many passes, or fail to convert that led to odd man rushes the other way? I don’t know, but I saw more of it from his position than virtually anywhere else (save Laich in the 1st part of the season).

    I still do not know how Johannson could not score a single goal on the top line with a playmaker of the calibre of Backstrom and a shooter, and above average passer, like Ovie. Ovie led the season in shots on net, and Mojo couldn’t put one rebound in the net? He was a PP specialist who was awful on the top line. One of the many ridiculous moves from Oates.

  • tpr04

    I’d start with having defensemen play defense and then work from there. Tough to critiicize Ovie on defense, IMO, when the actual defensemen were so bad.

  • Brackaphobia

    I have to agree here, especially after Wardo’s performance at Worlds. He made it pretty obvious how valuable he is even without being on a line with Chimmer and (insert center).

  • Matt McNeely

    Definitely. The Chimmer-[center]-Ward line was ALL Ward. You hate to split those guys up, but I gotta have my Ovechkin line be my best possession line. Not my third. We need Ovi to play as little defense as possible. That is the answer.

  • Fred Merc

    Normally hipster weirdos who use their beards to try to garner attention annoy me, but I will make an exception for a Great8 fan. But if he starts eating ramen noodles out of that thing he gets a beat down!

  • Rob W.

    I just hope Trotz hires someone better than Calle to run the D

  • Reu Scherf

    Years of destroying the roster is not on the players…

  • Anthony

    What if we picked up Ryan Callahan to go on our 1st line

  • Jonah

    he said people with “any sense”
    that OBVIOUSLY excludes milbury etc….

  • Jonah

    when he gets shadowed on the ovi spot he just passes it back to nicky/mojo who are working the opposite side feeding the slot and point.

  • Jonah

    or have wardo spend the summer teaching wilson how to play. wilson size/skating + wardo work ethic + ovi shot + willy fighting for rebounds = oh sweet jesus thats good.
    also we don’t have to split up ward- (center)- chimmer.

  • Jonah

    actually the bruins play he was targeting ONE guy. the guy who hit him into the boards. but i totally get what you mean, ovi the heat seeking missile is very very very fun to watch.

  • AMT

    Answer: a net-crashing, garbage goal bashing guy that creates a lot of space for Ovi and Backy. Remember how the first line rocked with Knuble and how Knuble scored 30 goals in the process? I think GMGM figured that out when he got Penner. Once Oates figured out that putting Beagle on the first line wasn’t the answer, what did he do – he moved in the much needed 2C to 1L, ensure that both top lines wouldn’t score any goals.

  • Owen Johnson

    My cat enjoys watching hockey with me. He’d probably be better than Calle.

  • Red

    “If you play the way a coach asks you to play and then you play less well, you are not a coach-killer. You are merely a weapon with which a coach killed himself.”
    Hahaha. That’s fantastic.

    Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals = /thread

  • Ash

    It’s hard for me to be objective on recaps of Ovechkin’s season because I’m terribly biased for him. But honestly, this past season more than ever has made me really appreciate just how freaking lucky we are to have and watch him. I think it’s fair to say that his performances ever since he’s come into the league have spoiled us Caps fans– we always expect more; we always think he’s capable of more; and by God, more often than not, he comes through with the dazzling move or the last minute goal. And it makes me determined to just enjoy him as long as possible.

    I watched the Caps before Ovi came into the league, but I’m not ashamed– nor should any Caps fan be– that he was a huge part of re-igniting my interest in hockey and getting me to tune in every single game. Do I still want more out of him? Of course– like I said, I’m spoiled by
    the man. But I do think he’s capable of it, even if I intellectually
    know age is going to slow him down.

    I just really want him to win the Cup for the Caps while my liver is still strong enough to put up with the celebration that would no doubt ensue.

  • Diller M

    Agreed, you also get another 10-15 assists and hart consideration b/c the caps are in the playoffs. The problem with MOJO and Nickey to some extent is their lack of willingness to SHOOT! I’m not sure what it is but I think getting the swedes to shoot is the biggest thing trotz can do to wake this line up.

  • Diller M

    Totally missed by the majority of “pundits” who I’m convinced dont really understand fancy stats. This is not basketball, if Ovi’s line can keep the pick in the zone for 30-45 seconds at a time, he really won’t play much d at all, Bruce understood this, Oates, Hunter and the dump and chase did not, or didn’t care. I’ll never understand people who’s ego is so big that they will ride their shitty plan into the ground, despite all of the evidence against them.

  • Diller M

    I totally agree I want a Russian line, assuming Grabo comes back, a Swedish line and a Canadian line.

  • Eric Schulz

    “Only 18 players have cracked 50 in the last decade, and five of them are Ovi.”

  • Eric Schulz

    That illustration points to Penner. The problem with that is, I don’t see how we use all of our forwards correctly if we resign Penner; somebody ends up getting screwed. Best case, it’s Wilson getting sent to the AHL. Hard to see it working unless we buy out Laich; I could see the logic of that, but it would make me sad. I tend to be MUCH more bullish on Laich than most though.
    Flip side, it doesn’t seem like we would resign Penner. I’d be sad to see him go, but I think our lines kind of fall into place with him gone, so… I don’t know, I’m very split.
    In my head though, how the lines fall into place has Fehr on the top line. He drives puck possession, and has enough skill to hang with those guys, I think. The eye test doesn’t tell me he fits on that line as well as the analytics do, but I had no idea how good he is at driving possession. I don’t know how he does it, but I trust the analytics here.

  • Eric Schulz

    To be fair, those are two separate issues. It’s completely fair to mention that the defensemen have to be MUCH better, and they play a bigger role in the disappointment that was last season than Ovechkin did. They also played a bigger, much bigger, role in Ovie’s atrocious +/- than Ovie did, although not nearly as big of a role as Ovie’s linemates did. But you can acknowledge those things while still pointing out that Ovechkin really needs to be better defensively. He’s a good enough player that his defense matters less than most, but he still can be a better player.
    It’s not even like we need him to be Callahan or something, and work so hard on defense that he puts up 25 goals and 60 points; he can play better defensively without sacrificing defense. I keep harping on that game vs St Louis; he was always in the right spot (from what I saw), and constantly had his stick on stick, and his body in the shooting lane. He

    harassed the puck-handler, and knocked the puck off their stick multiple times. He also scored a goal (50!) and 2 assists; good defense can lead to offense. Just have your body in the right spot, and have an active stick; play smart not harder. If Trotz can nudge him, Phil Jackson-style, into playing more like that, than we can be mighty dangerous.
    I find it hard to criticize leadership from outside the locker room. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t believe in those intangibles, but I don’t see how we can really comment on whether or not a guy is a leader (for the most part), or if HOW he leads is a success or failure. You can be a good leader, have a bad team, and not be successful. However, as the Captain, it’s hard to defend Ovechkin’s defense; I’d have less of a problem with his uncaring ways if he didn’t have the “C.” (It’d still be nice to see him pay a little more attention though, even in that scenario.)

  • Eric Schulz

    Could not disagree more. On our roster, we have a much better version of Ward in Fehr; he is a much better fit on that line. Penner is too, although I don’t see us resigning him. Ward is more valuable in a dump and chase style of play, forechecking and grinding/cycling. That doesn’t fit with Ovechkin and Backstrom.

  • Eric Schulz

    That’s part of it, sure, better support and depth would help. The other point to be made though would be that, as Ovie’s offense falls off, it becomes more important for him to pick up his defense. I’m not expecting a huge jump; just take his 10 best games on defense from last season and imagine him playing all 82 games like that. If we could get him to consistently care about defense, he could pretty easily make up for a drop in goals.

  • Eric Schulz

    Because then our 2nd line would be sad. I’d feel really bad for Grabovski if we didn’t give him Kuznetsov for his line.

  • James Hare

    He might have scored 60 without the Beagle nonsense.

  • DashingDave314

    That’s why you sign a top 6 forward to put with Grabo and Brouwer. LET THE RUSSIANS PLAY TOGETHER. I guess we can make Backstrom a honorary Russian!

  • Begemot

    Yup. In the final stretch of games, Ovechkin also made some nice passes to Grabovksi, who couldn’t always connect, but in his defense he still wasn’t 100%. (And even great players will miss sometimes.) The point is, contrary to the Milbury et al. narrative, Ovechkin often plays unselfishly and generally shows good awareness as a playmaker, not just a shooter.

  • Eric Schulz

    I just don’t see Kuznetsov being that great a fit with those two. MoJo keeps getting ripped for being soft; how is Kuznetsov any different? I want a guy who can win board battles, forecheck, drive possession, and drive the front of the net. Kuznetsov has a lot of skill and that can cover up for holes elsewhere, but I think he’s a better fit on the 2nd line with Grabovski. Then we just need to figure out how works best finishes each line: Fehr, Brouwer… Penner could fit very well too, although I imagine he walks. But again, as far as signing a top-6 guy, I just don’t see it happening (unless it’s to get a guy to replace Grabovski, if we don’t resign him). I would think Penner would be the best guy out there to sign as far as top-6 guys go, looking at talent, fit, and contract. I wouldn’t hate Moulson there though… but I just hate the idea of trying to complete our top line with another young, incomplete, talented finesse player who doesn’t drive possession. I think that doesn’t work out as badly as it did with Johansson, but I don’t see it being nearly as good as everybody else does.

  • DashingDave314

    Kuznetsov is far more aggressive shooting the puck. I think what Ovechkin really need is someone who is going to make teams pay if they try to shadow him. MoJo is DEFINITELY not that guy. He also needs someone who is good at puck possession. Because let’s face it, the less Ovechkin has to handle the puck, the better. Kuznetsov is the best fit. I can see the argument for a bigger guy sort of like when Ovi, Backstrom, and Knuble were awesome. Sadly, we don’t have anyone like Knuble now except maybe Brouwer, and moving Brouwer to the first line would basically kill the second line.

    I’d sign Matt Moulson and either let him play with Ovi and Backstrom or play with the second line and give the second line a legit goal scorer.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Weird thing for me is that I feel like I’m very critical of Ovi– I was downright vicious against him during the end of the Boudreau era and Hunter’s interregnum. But when it seems like everyone is trashing him– unfairly– I feel like I need to be corrective.

    If I can be blunt, I think he sucks at D. But I also think it doesn’t matter, and it should matter even less if the team around him is less of a mess.

  • JP

    I wanted to give this post an up-vote, but then I saw it already had exactly eight of them. Why mar perfection?

  • Eric Schulz

    I said Fehr for the top line, though. I think he fits there better than Kuznetsov (less skill, but better complement), and that allows us to use Kuznetsov and Grabovski to start a very good 2nd line. Fehr might not be the talent Kuznetsov is, but I’d expect about 20 goals from Fehr if he plays on the top line, and about 20 from Kuznetsov on that 2nd spot; not the same situation, obviously, but I don’t think Fehr is so far behind that it’s a big deal, plus Fehr is a proven driver of possession.

    If you were really concerned about it, as much as I hate it, it would make sense to put Grabovski on top line with Ovie, then have Backstrom anchor the 2nd line. I want Wilson to get a chance to play on the 2nd line; having Backstrom, our best center, on that line would offset the lack of experience from the wings (Kuznetsov and Wilson), hopefully, and that’s a lot of talent. Grabovski and Ovechkin worked well together last year too; mostly, because Grabovski is just insane at driving puck possession. When we got him last year, I could not have loved that move any more… and I think I underestimated him.

    Moulson would obviously be a good fit. Hard to imagine us getting him though… mainly because we never seem to get a guy, but I don’t know… our cap’s better than it used to be, but I don’t want to go blowing it all right away. I’d love to get him for a one-year contract; I’d be cool with overpaying him (if need be) to see how he fit, as well as to see how we played under Trotz. If the team was where it should be, and Moulson was a great fit, than we could sign him to a longer deal.