For anyone else, 69 points would make for a nice season. But Alex Ovechkin isn’t anyone else, he’s the Russian machine, dammit. Is he finally starting to rust?
|18:22||time on ice per game|
|51.8||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|58.8||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2016-17 season. A short description of each chart:
I used to do a bit in these reviews where I’d offer nuanced criticism for Ovi’s tactics, deployment, and future prospects, but then crush that criticism under big block letters touting his goal total. Well, that goal total shaved off a full third since last season, so what do we do now?
I suppose we start with appreciation. For the three season before this one, Alex Ovechkin scored goals like he were still practically 23 years old. Once he proved that he would outlast the franchise’s deliberate retreat from creative hockey between 2011 and 2014, the team relented, and Ovi finally got to be Ovi again. He Ovi scored 50 goals a season; eight became great again.
That greatness was measured in goals, but it was fed by shot volume. Now fully a silver fox at the ripe old age of 31-going-on-32, Ovechkin’s volume has been turned down just a tad. His shot generation during 5-on-5 is now just north of 20 attempts per hour, ten of which are on net – a 15-20 percent drop-off from recent seasons. And while he’s still one of the very best shooters in the NHL, he’s no longer head and shoulders above the pack.
That’s Ovi vs the 100 most prolific shooting forwards over the last four seasons
What distinguished Ovechkin was moarness, and now that moarness is vanishing. Pair that with his diminished ice time – he played 100 fewer minutes this season – and we’re suddenly in a new reality: Alex Ovechkin, while still a very special player, can no longer be the primary engine of the Washington offense. The dictates of the aging curve now make it mandatory that the Caps increasingly score by committee. That will require others to step up (Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov especially), but it’ll also ask more of Ovechkin than ever before. Can Ovi get 40 assists in a season in his thirties, when he’s no longer the most explosive skater on the ice? Because that’s what the Caps will need from him in 2017-18.
Oh, that and power-play goals, which Ovi will still score a bunch of, because he’ll be a goddamn terror there for years to come.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 18, 2016
The culture beat follows.
And now, Ovi doing Ovi things.
If Ovechkin is indeed slipping on the aging curve, what changes — if any — should the team make? Reduced ice time? Does Ovi become a PP specialist with lighter 5-on-5 duties? Should Trotz shelter him?
Headline photo: Amanda Bowen
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