Wednesday, September 22, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Alex Ovechkin

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position--forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Teammates are those listed at 10% or greater and at even strength (though the percentage includes all manpower situations). Today, Alex Ovechkin)

Alex Ovechkin: age 25, 6'2", 220 pounds, shoots right.
Contract: $9 million with $9.538 million cap hit, UFA in 2021, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 linemates: 33% Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble, 19% Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin
2010 playoff linemates: 49% Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 72 GP, 50-59-109, +45, 368 shots, 89 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 5-5-10, +5, 34 shots, 0 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 4th in Corsi QoC, 10th in Corsi Rel QoC, 3rd in Corsi QoT in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 55.6% offensive zone (sixth) with Zonefinish 54.2% offensive zone (second). Corsi Rel 19.7, 1st on team, 4th in NHL.
2010 playoffs advanced stats: last in Corsi QoC and in Corsi Rel QoC, 3rd in Corsi QoT and in Corsi Rel QoT.

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Ovechkin, green how much better Ovechkin is with the player)

You know a guy is pretty good when his worst Corsi% taken from at least 100 events is a 51.1%.

Here's Tyler Dellow's earlier analysis.

Alex Ovechkin is a fantastic player. He has led the NHL in shots every year since the lockout. His goal totals have gone 52-46-65-54-50. His point totals have gone 106-92-113-110-109. His points per game since Boudreau took over has hovered over 1.35. He's the undisputed best goal-scoring winger in the game and possibly the most dominating offensive presence in the league.

If this sounds like an Ovechkin-love post thus far, well, that's because it really is. There isn't much to criticize him on. He has a favorable Zonestart and good quality of teammates, but he does so much with them that it's really not even funny (except for Caps fans). He scores goals and generates shots at a healthy rate. He primary-helps out (who would have guessed that Ovechkin has more primary assists/60 than Nicklas Backstrom?). He draws penalties. He hits. He heavily impacts the power play, and maybe only Andrei Markov is better, considering time on ice. He is "clutch." In fact, there is a strong case that he should be three-peated the Hart Trophy.

Pluses aside, Ovechkin can work on a few rusty parts of his game. His shift lengths are probably too long. He needs to rein in his physical game a bit for the regular season, so as to not get suspended, or worse, get injured. He could work on cycling and scoring off an in-zone offense rather than off the rush (the entire team's reliance on scoring off the rush and its inability to adapt accordingly quickly enough in my opinion is the main reason the Capitals lost to the Canadiens). Maybe he could get a bit better defensively (at 5-on-5, closer to league average with a .920 on ice-save percentage and 10% shooting gives him 70 goals on-ice for, 44 goals against, +26. Could be better, and boy am I pushing it...). Maybe he could take PK time and work hard defensively, transforming like Steve Yzerman (though I'd rather Nicklas Backstrom block shots and Alexander Semin PK). Maybe he could not lose backchecking focus during playoff games. Maybe he could take the team on his back even more.

What I'd like to see is Backstrom and Ovechkin get matched against other top lines, since the Capitals are a negative Corsi team without Ovechkin (AO's Corsi OFF is -0.38). I don't think that will happen, though. I think the Capitals will more or less do the same as this past season, giving Ovechkin not quite the toughest but slightly harder matchups, lots of power play time, hardly any penalty killing time, and the second shot in the shootout. Considering his PDO is due to come down--but not too far, as I think Neuvirth and Varlamov can each give a 5-on-5 save percentage over .920--80 GP, 53-60-113, +34. Those numbers I think will win him another Richard and Ross.

As for the playoffs, well, Ovechkin has done his part. Now it's up to the Capitals' depth to contribute tangibly to the score, and in the Caps' favor. If that happens--likely necessitating a good second-line center and another good defenseman--Ovechkin could finally touch (or not, depending) a silver trophy before the awards show and after the end of the regular season. And that's his goal. That will be what defines his 2010-2011.

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