Players get older; they slow down. Elite goal scorers drop off as they enter their late twenties. It’s time to realize this has happened to Alex Ovechkin. He may have the same name as the guy who scored 65 goals five years ago, but he is far from the same player. And it’s not his fault.
Nine of Ovechkin’s 15 goals have come off the same shot from the same spot: a one-timer from the circles. Seven of those have been on the power play. More remarkably, Ovechkin has not held the puck for more than a second on any of his goals this season save for one. He no longer scores on the rush.
The Washington Capitals invested $123 million dollars in Alex Ovechkin. They cannot have him not score. If he isn’t scoring the way he used to, they will adjust the game plan for him. That’s exactly what first year head coach Adam Oates has done. The new power play he instituted is designed to get Ovechkin the puck at any costs — and it works brilliantly. Ten of his 15 tallies this year (2/3) have come on the power play, the highest ratio of power play to even-strength goals of any player with more than 10 markers. He leads the NHL in man advantage goals.
Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.
The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.
Kevin Dineen needed more than a timeout tonight. (GIF by welshhockeyfan)
The Florida Panthers opened tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals with four straight shots on Braden Holtby in the first 1:44 of game action. They looked sharp. They looked ready to get out of the Southeast division cellar. The wheels fell off 24 seconds later.
As John Erskine wound up from the Panthers’ blue line — in what he would later admit was just a dump-and-change — Florida’s starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom mis-judged Erskine’s blast and allowed the puck to squeak through his seven-hole. 1-0 Caps.
2:36 later, the Capitals would score on their very next shot, as Markstrom was caught off guard by Wojtek Wolski‘s strong net crash. Enter Scott Clemmensen.
Clemmensen gave up two more goals — one to John Carlson and another to Mike Ribeiro — in the next six shots. The Capitals received a standing ovation and headed into intermission with a 4-0 lead, their biggest goal explosion this season.
“I don’t know what to say,” Markstrom told reporters after the game. “It was terrible. I feel like I let the team down. I am there to stop pucks, and I didn’t do that tonight.”
A few weeks ago I published a piece explaining why I wasn’t freaking out the Capitals. My point was that bad luck had been quashing good possession numbers, a trend that I predicted would soon reverse. That did not happen.
For the Capitals, there’s a lot to keep track of right now. We’ve noticed Alex Ovechkin’s scoring slump, a whole lotta penalties, and some bad breaks for the goalies. One thing we haven’t noticed is Marcus Johansson, and that’s a big problem too.
In 2011-2012, Johansson scored 14 goals and 32 assists, shooting a pretty boss 15.6%. That was enough to make him the team’s third best scorer behind the Alexes, a crucial piece of a lean team.
Not so much this year. Through seven games, Johansson’s stat line looks like this: 0, 0, 0%.
Despite how desperate the standings look, the Capitals are actually playing darn good hockey right now according to their underlying numbers. Let’s take a look at those together and then have a warm glass of milk.
On January 19, 2013, In Analysis, By Peter Hassett
No more waiting. Hockey is here. Are you ready? Perhaps not. It’s been like 252 days since the last Caps game. To help acclimatize you, we’ve polled the RMNB crew and asked them what they expect from the upcoming season. Behold: our predictions for the 2012-2013 NHL season.
On January 18, 2013, In Analysis, By Peter Hassett
Photo credit: Chris Gordon
Since the Caps last played hockey– sometime during the Medieval Warm Period, they’ve lost a few guys. Alex Semin left via free agency for Carolina, Mike Knuble returned to the exotic beauty of Michigan, Tomas Vokoun made a pit stop in Breezewood before heading up to Pittsburgh, and Dennis Wideman got such a ludicrous and undeserved payday in Calgary that you’d think he had left congress to start lobbying for the MPAA.
You’re gonna see some new faces on Saturday night, so here’s a quick refresher on the additions the Capitals made just before the lockout sucked the last ounce of joy out of the universe.