Saturday, March 5, 2011

Could Alex Ovechkin Win the Hart Trophy?

  • The top four scorers in the league will like be Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Sedin, in some order. The partnership of both pairs of teammates is well documented.
  • The Sedins also have potential Hart candidate Ryan Kesler on their team, plus Roberto Luongo.
  • Alex Ovechkin is 2 points behind Henrik Zetterberg for 5th in league scoring, 69-67 (Corey Perry has 68 points, leaving Ovechkin in 7th). Ovechkin leads the NHL in even strength points, tied for first (48) with Henrik Sedin.
  • While Ovechkin is well behind Steven Stamkos in the Richard race (Stamkos has 41 tallies so far), Ovechkin only sits 8 goals out of 2nd (Patrick Sharp at 33). And 7 of those 8 goals by which Sharp leads Ovechkin are power play goals. Ovechkin is five behind Bobby Ryan (25) for the lead in even strength goals.
  • Ovechkin is 7th in assists, just trailing 4th-place Daniel Sedin by 5. He is 6th in even strength assists, just three behind Henrik Zetterberg's 31 for 2nd.
  • The Capitals' down season this year is well documented. Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin are playing under 70 point-per-82-games paces, Semin with injury troubles too. Mike Green, after going back-to-back seasons above a point-per-game, is not scoring at even half that rate this season. The Caps have been shutout the second most times in the league (only Toronto has been more often) and the offense is 22nd in the NHL, scoring 1.4 goals per game less than last season.
  • Despite these struggles, the Capitals sit one point behind Tampa Bay for the division lead (with an extra game played) and two points behind Pittsburgh (with a game in hand) for 4th in the conference. Boston is within striking distance, too.
  • For all the talk about Dwayne Roloson, the Lightning, both before and after getting Roloson, are roughly even in goal differential. Pittsburgh is down three centers and a top line wing, and Boston...Tim Thomas isn't this good. The Caps could be better than all three of those teams (even Boston) and eventually true talent will win out.
  • The Caps' power play, after breaking 25% each of the past two seasons, is now stagnating at 16.1%, 25th. After registering 51-52, 55-37, 75-37, 63-46, and 73-36 in ESpoints-PPpoints in his first five seasons in the league, Ovechkin's 48-19 this season rates to 61-24. The power play has been the biggest culprit in holding him back. 
  • After scoring 79 power play goals last year, the Caps are only on pace for 44 this year. Rate Ovechkin's scoring based on those 79 goals and his 61-24 increases to 61-43. Rate his scoring based on Toronto's 15th-place 43 PPGs in 65 games, and the 61-24 becomes 61-30.
  • He's been on a roll lately. He's currently on pace for 32-53-85, but with 15 goals in his last 17 games--something which, according to my calculations, Ovechkin has accomplished 74 times with overlap, 8 times without overlap (including playoffs)--he'll hit 40 goals. He could feasibly finish the season 40-50-90 while leading in even-strength points and top-5 in goals, assists, and points.
  • The Capitals are on pace for 101 points, and given their play this season, one could expect a slightly higher finish. That could mean another last-day division title.
With those last two not-too-much-of-a-stretch bullets, I'm optimistic Ovechki has a chance at another Hart nomination.

Whether or not he deserves it is another issue.

Edit: And lo and behold, THN's Hart Trophy Watch has Ovie re-entering the race.


  1. Now that you've collated all these figures, I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see these numbers used in some MSM piece about Ovechkin's Hart chances. Nice piece.

    That said, I don't follow your bullet point on Roloson and Thomas. Are you considering them both as Hart candidates, potentially in competition with Ovechkin? Probably not, since they both seem to leave you unimpressed. But if you're pointing out the flaws in their play and their teams, then that makes me wonder why the Capitals aren't further ahead of them.

    A related point: "Tim Thomas isn't that good." True, in that he's been lucky this year (current sv% .940). But would you feel confident saying that his true talent is just league-average? Even in his "decline," last year, his sv% on the season was .915 in forty-three games.

    And one last related point, and then I'll stop. Are trophies like the Hart awarded (or should they be) on the voters' beliefs about true talent, or on the facts of the season? It seems to me that for the yearly awards, voters [i]have[/i] to privilege the season as it happened, no matter lucky a surprise Hart candidate has been and no matter how unlucky a perennial Hart contender has been. The time to try and assess true talent is in the Hall of Fame selections; seasonal awards have to accept the vagaries of fate in a single-season sample size.

  2. Sorry, my train of thought was that the Caps may be better teams than either Boston or Tampa, and with the teams so close, "true talent" may override and put the Caps in front. Neil from RMNB has a good fanpost at Japers' Rink and the Caps creamed the Bs in scoring chances (though it should be noted the Caps trailed the vast majority of the season series).

    We know that the voters value team performance a whole lot. So if the Caps can overtake both Boston and Tampa, that's a huge plus for AO (even if it shouldn't be).

    Thomas is definitely elite. I'd still say Luongo, Vokoun, and Hiller are better, if only marginally. It's probably an insignificant difference between the four (give me Hiller though, since if anybody in that group may be proved "clutch" in the future, it's Hiller. And his mask is badass).

    Last point: I wrote about it before, and so did the LOES at Behind the Net Hockey. I think you have to include shooting luck and goalie luck, but try your best to adjust your opinion for factors like quality of competition, zone starts, etc. Like Ovechkin gets a minus for easy competition, the Sedins big minuses for easy competition and 70% zone starts, Kesler a plus for 2nd-toughs, Zetterberg massive plusses for tough competition and a great Corsi.