In the first four games of the new season, Alex Ovechkin has struggled. He’s looked lost on the right wing and had trouble finding his role in Adam Oates’ new system. Before today’s matinee with the Buffalo Sabres, Ovi had one point, an assist. The Washington Capitals went 0-3-1 during that stretch.
That doesn’t mean Ovechkin hasn’t had his chances — especially in Oates’ 1-3-1 powerplay. After their game against New Jersey on Friday, Mike Green lamented to CSN sideline reporter Al Koken,”I missed [Ovi] on a pass that was about four or five inches out of his wheelhouse.” On Sunday, Green found Ovi with a beautiful cross-ice pass to give the Russian machine his first goal on the season. It would end up being the game-winner.
Video is below the jump.
Sigh. Thomas Vanek scores the OTGWG. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Without Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres are not really daunting foes. The well-haired goalie had been convalescing with a hip injury for the last handful of games and returned to the Washington Capitals’ distinct displeasure. But with a stiff upper lip, the Caps entered the fray in nigh-Canada. Sort of.
Karl Alzner opened the game with a laser through traffic that found a wide swathe of net behind Ryan Miller. The second period was an unbridled embarrassment. The Sabres scored twice (a well-screened bomb by Montador and a fluke by Vanek). For their part the Capitals simply refused to play offense of any kind, offering only four shots across the middle frame. To qualify that, Jason Chimera spent four minutes in the box for a cross check that might have been overblown a bit, and Tomas Fleischmann also caught a double minor for a freak high sticking that carried no aggression.
Nicklas Backstrom allowed 7 minutes to escape the third period before equalizing with a high swat. Ten minutes later, a suspicious high sticking call earned Backy a double minor (the Caps’ third of the game). The Capitals survived another backbreaking penalty kill all the way into overtime. Things look liked they were headed towards the shootout until Thomas Vanek suckered Carlson and Holtby in sequence to score a sharp-looking OTGWG. Bummer, I know, but at least the Caps take a point home. Sabres beat Caps 3-2 (OT).
The Norris Trophy sounds simple to award: “The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
Not surprisingly, it seems the voters (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association) use how many points a defenseman scores in the season as the “offensive component” when looking for their winner. Since the 1997-8 season, only last year’s winner (Zdeno Chara) has been out of the Top 10 in Points for defensemen – and he wasn’t out by much, ranking 12th.
A defenseman’s Plus/Minus factors in to the voting as the “defensive component.” In the same time frame, all but two winners had a Plus/Minus less than 10 – Nicklas Lidstrom in 2000-1 had a +9 and Rob Blake in 1997-8 had a -3 (the only other winner of the Norris with a negative Plus/Minus was Randy Carlyle in 1980-1). And you would have to go back to when the “Secretary of Defense” won the first of his two Norris Trophies to find another winner with a Plus/Minus not in the double digits.
The Capitals’ Semyon Varlamov has been one of the better rookies in the NHL this season, and he’s certainly in the running to maybe take home the Calder Trophy. Several of the more highly touted rookies haven’t quite lived up to expectations, which leaves the field still wide open. By the nature of these kinds of awards, the winner tends to be the guy who played over his head the most and the longest. That means that the player who is on top now can easily regress and possibly even finish out of the top 10 at the en. Also, since it’s hard to compare players at different positions, the Goals Versus Threshold numbers that Behind The Net recently added are useful to put everyone on the same playing field. A little more than half-way through the season, here are some of the top contenders.
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