Photo: Alex Brandon
The Washington Capitals have one of the most prolific goal scorers in NHL history in Alex Ovechkin. One of the main ingredients in Ovechkin’s success is his ability to generate an insane amount of shots. Since entering the league, Ovechkin has 2252 shots on goal during 5v5 play, 553 more than the next player, Rick Nash. In terms of shot attempts, Ovechkin has 4326, which is 1,479 more than the next closest player. Here’s one stat I can’t wrap my mind around:
Since 2005-06, if you rank 1,371 forwards by 5v5 shot attempts, and only count SOG for Ovechkin, he'd rank 20th with 2252. WHAT.
— Pat Holden (@pfholden) March 15, 2015
This season is no exception. Ovechkin is once again pacing the league in shot attempt rate.
But here’s the problem: After Ovechkin, the 2014-15 Caps’ forward corps struggles mightily to generate shot attempts.
The Caps have 13 forwards who played 500+ 5v5 minutes this season. Here’s how they do in generating individual shot attempts. In parenthesis is the players rank among the 323 forwards that have crossed the 500 minute threshold this season.
|Player||Individual Shot Attempts/60|
Yes, you read that correctly. Three-hundred twenty three forwards have played 500-plus minutes in the NHL this season, and the Caps have just one forward in the top 137 in terms of individual shot generation.
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at the other top eight teams in the East. Here’s how many players they each have in the top 137 in terms of shot generation.
|Team||Players in top 137 in iSA/60|
The Caps have a shot-generation problem.
The way the Caps have been deployed recent only serves to exacerbate this problem. The Caps top five are Ovechkin, Eric Fehr, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznesov, and Marcus Johansson. Two of these guys, Fehr and Kuenzetov, play center. Another, Burakovsky, has primarily been in Hershey lately, only up intermittently on an emergency recall basis. Ovechkin and Johansson have played on the same line for much of the time since early February. This means that the Caps wingers on lines two through four all rank 182nd or below in individual shot attempts/60. This is cause for concern, and good evidence for the popular sentiment that the Caps have too many redundant pieces at forward, particularly on the wing.
This isn’t to say that individual shot attempt generation is everything. Nick Backstrom, an elite forward, ranks last among all Caps forward. But Backstrom’s skill set includes All-World level passing, playmaking, and vision that partially explains, and more than makes up for, his lack of individual shot generation. Suffice to say, the same is not true for the rest of the Caps forward whose shot generation leaves so much to be desired.
The Caps’ main weakness right now is at forward. One of the primary concerns among the current group is the meager shot generation from everyone not named Ovechkin. GM Brian MacLellan is a smart man, likely well aware of this issue. The fact that the Caps have been linked to Evander Kane and Patrick Sharp, both in the top 15 in individual shot attempts per 60 this season, in trade rumors, shows that the Caps are likely to address this issue moving forward.
But any potential changes obviously have to wait until the off-season. The lack of creativity and shot generation from their forwards will likely be one of the primary reasons that the Caps off-season is unlikely to include a Stanley Cup parade.
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