By Chris Gordon
Photo credit: Scott Levy
Earlier this week, former NHLer Marty McSorley took the hatchet out on Alex Ovechkin. Broadcasting for Sportsnet during Monday’s game in Ottawa, he criticized last year’s MVP for not playing defense and being bad during five-on-five, using Ovechkin’s poor plus-minus as an example. Ovi’s defenders were outraged, pointing out the unreliability of plus-minus as a statistic. However, one person seems to buy that criticism: Alex Ovechkin.
“I think we have great offense, but on the defensive side, if you look at my stats, I’m a minus-13 or minus-14,” Ovechkin told reporters after Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s kind of a situation where you want to be better.”
“Defensive side can win the game,” he added. “More responsibility in your zone is going to help your offense as well.”
Ovechkin attributed his poor plus-minus stats to Washington’s struggles five-on-five. While the team leads the league in power play percentage, they are ranked 22nd in five-on-five goal differential. The Caps give up the second-most shots per game. Over half of Ovechkin’s points this year have come on the man-advantage, including 10 of his 11 assists. Twelve of his 30 goals have also been scored on the power play.
Those subpar even-strength numbers, though, are not a condemnation of Ovechkin. During five-on-five, Ovechkin has scored 13 goals on 127 shots. Everyone else on the ice has fired 171 shots, but scored just three. That’s a 01.8% shooting percentage, which most people interpret as startlingly bad luck. If his teammates shot league average when on the ice with him, Ovi would have a positive plus-minus.
“If you score five-on-five, you get a plus,” the captain said. “If you get goals five-on-four, you don’t count pluses. Right now it’s a game where five-on-five is very hard to score.”
“Right now, you can see most of time power play decide the game,” he concluded. “You want to score five-on-five but it’s hard in this league right now because every team play so defensive style of hockey, they put pressure on you, you play against the best line, and best defensemen all the time. It’s situation where you have to work.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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