Only in this way is it a shame that Russia-US relations are headed to Cold War status soon, because Alex Ovechkin should be considered an imported treasure, if not a national one. But being a close friend of The Shirtless Rider in charge over there probably won’t help his cause in a lot of eyes. Either way, we’ve spent years talking about what a true phenomenon Ovechkin is and has been. He’s leading the league in goals again at 33. and it doesn’t feel like he’s going to stop doing that anytime soon. What’s peculiar about this year is how he’s going about it.
Ovechkin used to score his usual avalanche of goals by sheer volume of shots. Think Matthew Stafford. No player in history averaged the five shots per game that Ovechkin routinely put up. although he hasn’t done that in a couple years. And while he had a decent accuracy on them, the fact that he found a way to get a puck through more than anyone else from anywhere is the reason he was always atop the scoring charts.
That’s not so this year. Ovie is only averaging 3.96 shots per game, his second-lowest since 2012 when Adam Oates tried to turn him into a fucking checking winger. As far as rates go, Ovie is only getting 11.2 shots per 60 minutes total on net, a low since that Oates-era confusion. His 17.7 SH% are a career-high this year, which explains the 33 goals.
It’s even more pronounced at even-strength. Alex The Great is only getting 8.9 shots per 60 at 5-on-5, when he’s comfortably been over 10 per 60 for his entire career. Again, his 17.5 SH% at even-strength is a career-high, and by some distance. The best he had done before was last year’s 12.8%. He’s not really making it up on the power play either, averaging less shots there than he has in seven seasons and with less accuracy. This could be the third-straight season his power play goals tally declines.
Which would lead one to ask if Ovie is just finding better spots to get a higher percentage of shots to the twine, or he’s just getting luckier. It looks like the latter. Ovechkin is nearly doubling his expected individual goals for per 60, which is 0.83 and he’s actually potted 1.58. This is by far the highest difference in the last five years. Now to be clear, Ovechkin is always going to outshoot what the percentages say he “should” score, because his shot is just that heavy. But doubling it up is pushing it. It also doesn’t suggest he’s getting to any different areas or getting chances he didn’t before. His expected-goals rate is below what it was last year, so he might not even be getting the same chances as before, though he’s pretty much in line with the past few years on that.
All of which would lead you to believe that if you wanted to wager that the decline is coming for Ovie next year, it might be smart money. Hell, he’s only got three in his last 14 right now, so it might already be here. Going five percent over your career-high in shooting-percentage is a neat trick at 33, and one that’s hard to maintain. That doesn’t mean Ovie is going to be a detriment or anything close to it. But it might behoove the Caps to start planning on him being a 25-30 goal guy soon, because underneath the fireworks, that’s the way things are trending.
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