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Posted at 10:49 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Statistical analysis: Alex Ovechkin on the power play, then and now

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

To say the Capitals need to improve on the power play is an understatement. After converting a league-high 25 percent last year, they are struggling below the league average in the current campaign, converting on just 16 percent of opportunities. You don't have to look further than the stat sheet to see why: Alex Ovechkin has only three power-play goals through the first 57 games - the preseason odds of which were around 3,000 to 1.

The numbers (courtesy of Behind the Net) from the last three years will confirm what everyone already knows: The Capitals' power-play production is off significantly from years past.

Goals scored per 60 minutes of power-play timeShots on net per 60 minutes of power-play time
2008-0910.9950.7
2009-108.9650.4
2010-11     4.7855.8

All the numbers in the table above are for the team when Ovechkin is on the ice. The Caps see almost 5 goals scored per 60 minutes of power-play time off of 56 shots as opposed to 9-10 goals per 51 shots the previous two years. To put it another way: about half as effective as they have been with Ovi on the ice.

With almost a complete set of shot data for the last three seasons, we can look at where Ovechkin's shots and goals have come from on the ice during the man advantage and perhaps we'll see why his power-play scoring could be down so significantly.

In 2008-9, Ovechkin lead the league in shots on goal and saw a third of his goals come during the man advantage, tallying 10 for the season. On the charts to follow, power-play shots are indicated by a blue X while power-play goals scored are a green circle.


Notice the amount of goals coming in the slot, extremely close to the net. This is where Ovechkin is most dangerous, simply because one of the best shots in hockey gets to do the most damage.

The following year, his percentage of power-play goals dropped to only one in four, but still a healthy count for someone who lit the lamp 50 times for the third straight season. Not only do we begin to see a less dense spread of shots, but we don't see nearly as many goals from just off the right side of the opposing netminder.


Which brings us to this season. Either by choice or by the way the opposition defends him, there's nearly no action close in to the net. Instead, fans are treated to shots from the point, which are easy to defend and have a low probability of hitting the twine.


The remedy is simple: Get Ovechkin back to his sweet spot and let someone else handle the quarterback role on the power play.


Neil Greenberg also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks. You can follow him on Twitter.

By Neil Greenberg  | February 18, 2011; 10:49 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Statistical analysis  
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Next: Line change: Do the Caps really need another defenseman?

Comments

I mean I guess I can see the trade working for the Avs getting a younger goalie who they hope that can stay healthy I just don't get why this works for the Sens. They must really have not wanted Elliot. Anderson is a FA so unless they think they can resign him or trade him for something else I don't get why you make that trade. Even resigning him you are rebuilding and he is already old how long are you having him around? I just get the feeling the Sens are making trades just to make trades.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 18, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I like the charts with more green dots. Hopefully we see more of them the rest of this year. I think once Green comes back Ovie will be off the point for at least half of the PP time.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 18, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

The above three pictures look the top of the head of a man over several years as he goes bald. Sad. Soon he'll be called Alex "combover" Ovechkin.

Neil: I have asked and asked and asked and asked some more for Katie to explain WHIFFGATE. We have seen nothing in response. Even when he gets a clean shot, he's whiffed half the time (though not lately). You have described the symptoms of the illness. For God's sake can you compadre there at WaPo tell us why this has happened? We need some old-fashioned editorializing on WHAT and WHY.

Back to other thread comments, the really, really sad thing about Poti being signed two more years is that Hannan will probably sign for Willie Mitchell money after the season (2 yrs/$3.5M ea) so for a "few dollars more" (Clint Eastwood reference) you could have Hannan next year vs Poti. Now they will let Hannan go. "Not enough money," will be the explanation. No, "lack of foresight" will be the truth.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 18, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

No, what is sad is that we could get someone like Hal Gill for not much more then Poti and still have cap space for a center and wing but won't because of the Poti deal.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 18, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

these statistical analyses are cool, but anybody that watches the game can see that OV has been taking bad shots this year.

Posted by: doughless | February 18, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

OK, I apologize Neil, there you have a "remedy" at the bottom. BUT, hasn't Ovechkin been on point throughout the three years of your study? I know he was on point all of last year, and last year is better than this year (so WHIFFGATE still must be explained). I don't remember 08-09, to be honest. Some people remember every detail of every single game (tmac) which just means to me that he doesn't drink (Hey, if you remember what you did, you weren't really there).

Before the Caps scored by getting the other team moving and Ovi getting into his magic spot (see Stamkos, S.) for that one-timer. Then Jacques Martin wrote the book "How to Beat the caps in 7 Easy Steps." Craig Ramsey has since written a follow-up (3 Easy Steps). Basically clog the slot, play zone defense, don't move from your lane. the solution I believe would work (what do I know, I'm not "in the game") would be to cycle behind the net with Backie and rotate in front of the net. Backie look for Green on point; Ovi rotate to post; Green hit Ovi for one-timer. None of that can work unless you can make them unclog, and to do that you must rotate and cycle.

Anyway, that's how all the other teams do it so you'd think the caps could do it too.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 18, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The Caps basically play "zone offense" on PP while other team plays "zone defense" on PK. Nine people not moving. This means no screening of goalie, no deflections, no rebounds. Neil pointed out 1st of year that defelctions and rebounds at 33% are best percentage shots (see, I remember some things, numbers). We are simply taking less shots because we don't move, and the ones we take are lower quality.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 18, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

where are the fumbled shots, whiffed pucks, or shots that go directly into shin pads. He is terrible at the point and a huge defensive liability.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 18, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Interesting chart, but I think the problem in PP is purely related to Mike Green.
This problem started when he was not selected to national team on Feb 2010 and, in response off, mostly, unjustifiable critique, he decided 'to improve' his defensive game during intermission, to become more defensive defensman. This 'defensive' switch, completely mess up his game. When you watch live, not on TV, games, starting from the end of last season, you can see that he lost his amazing gliding speed that help him to easily handle a puck, shoot precisely and distribute passes, and specifically setting Ovi. That's why PP drop, including Ovis started on that time and became especially glaring in playoffs and continues now. We can see now how messy for the Caps this more 'defensive' switch as a team.
IF MG game will be back?? then PP and Ovi's goals will be back. Carlson is no match to MG in PP in setting Ovi, I will say even more destructive, like in yesterday game. So, would be interesting to see statistics of MG on PP.

Posted by: yuvk03 | February 18, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Another day of GMGM doing nothing while his team continues to flounder around. I mean do something, even if its streaking around the Mall under Kettler.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | February 18, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Another day of GMGM doing nothing while his team continues to flounder around. I mean do something, even if its streaking around the Mall under Kettler.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | February 18, 2011 11:53 AM

Would he be wearing the scarf?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 18, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The scary thing is, McPhee may stand pat, do nothing.

Posted by: underpants2 | February 18, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The issue with our powerplay this year is that it is stagnant, nobody skates around to get open. Its like they don't have any simple set plays to develop an open player/streaking defenseman...these are things you learn in pee wee hockey. Simple solution - let BB go. I also thing a second LH shot on the point would help. Perhaps we should try nicky on the point.

Posted by: chatton | February 18, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Another day of GMGM doing nothing while his team continues to flounder around. I mean do something, even if its streaking around the Mall under Kettler.

Posted by: kcbrichmond

Have to disagree. You do not make a move just to make a move. Those usually come back to haunt you. Yes, GMGM needs to make a move before the deadline but it doesn't really matter if it is today or on Wednesday or whenever, as long as it is before the deadline.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Your owner (Ted) saying that he wishes they could "decline the power play somtimes" speaks volumes. I think BB is pretty much done, possibly GMGM too. That is something you would never want the owner to say.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | February 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

@yuvk03 You bring up interesting points, but I am not sure Green is the reason. As for "Carlson is no match to MG in PP in setting Ovi," the numbers may disagree:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalsinsider/statistical-analysis/statistical-analysis-is-the-ca.html

@tominsocal1 You could be right, and Corey Masisak said the same: "points more to Caps lack of movement on PP than a position change."

Looking at the data (not in this story) it's also possible teams are defending him different and "movement" may not be an easy option -- thus taking him off the point at least gets him in the position he needs to be from the start.

Thanks for remembering what I wrote back in Oct/Nov. I appreciate your continued support.

Also, haven't forgotten about Hannan posts.

Posted by: NeilRMNB | February 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps we should try nicky on the point.

Posted by: chatton | February 18, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I have always thought putting Laich would be the best option. He is a left shot and we have used him on D when we have had guys hurt/in the box before and not just as a way to get more scoring out like we do with Ovie. Once we get Fehr back we have him, Knuble, Hendricks, and to an extent Chimmy to put in front of the net.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Tominsocal: As far as GMGM and the scarf, I don't want to get that detailed. However we can revisit the Dino jersey fantasy again if we forget about GMGM for a while.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | February 18, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Icehammer - I don't think laich has the passing ability to play the point. While VT might love it, putting an LH shot like Erskine on the point doesn't make sense bc he can't distribute the puck effectively. This team really lacks a good LH shot. Nicky is our best option for getting off a one timer (and hes not that good at that) but still being able to distribute the puck.

Posted by: chatton | February 18, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Have to disagree. You do not make a move just to make a move. Those usually come back to haunt you. Yes, GMGM needs to make a move before the deadline but it doesn't really matter if it is today or on Wednesday or whenever, as long as it is before the deadline.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

He should get the guys he wants before they are gone.

Posted by: underpants2 | February 18, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Neil: Thanks. I really think Hannan has been a big reason for D improvement. Erskine too. Schultz OTOH...

icehammer: Yes! Let's get Sarah in that Dino jersey (only)! Now, can we start fiddling with the tie-down strap?

If she got elected, it would give new meaning to the "Oval Office."

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 18, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The guy you put on the point on your PP is not your sniper. It's another passer, someone who passes better than most defensemen.

Does Eakin play the point on his team's PP? The guy who does this role must have a keen hockey sense. MaJo might be an option in a few years.

Your sniper should be within range of his rifle. At all times.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 18, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

He should get the guys he wants before they are gone.

Posted by: underpants2

Agreed.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 18, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

But it is nice to have a guy with a cannon at the point. The Caps don't have that.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 18, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

what is the point of making a trade.

we need a center/ a right wing to play on top line. need to replace chimmy. the d needes help. the goalies are young. all of this is not something that can be done before the D. same players get hurt all the time semin/fehr/green... same story every year

Posted by: samb99 | February 18, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Supposedly the Kaberle deal is going down soon. Reportedly, Toronto has officially asked Kaberle to waive his NTC.

I find that funny because I am pretty sure Burke said that he would NEVER do that. Now he is.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 18, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

GMGM cannot stand pat - we only have 2/3 of a first and second line and then nothing after that.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 18, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

GMGM cannot stand pat - we only have 2/3 of a first and second line and then nothing after that.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 18, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I agree, but he is a buffoon. You never know with him.

Posted by: underpants2 | February 18, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Lylewimbledon has it right. If you shake your head real hard and get all of the cool aid and cobwebs out of your brain, this team doesn't have the players to compete.
Schultz, Poti, Chimerra, MP, MarJo, Fehr, Laich, TFS, Gordon, Bradley, Stecks, etc.
One of two of these guys could be carried on a well balanced team and they could be effective. But you can't have a whole team of them.
Really - we do have 2/3 of a first and second line and nothing after that.

Posted by: rblatch45 | February 18, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse


I agree with the suggestion of trying Nicky on the point (ala Brad Richards with Dallas). It needs to be someone with a dangerous enough shot but also a skilled passer, so I think Backstrom would be better suited than Laich (who can do more damage lurking around the net for rebounds).

Posted by: chombie13 | February 18, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The biggest problem for Ovechkin is shifts; since his inception in the league he is always in the top 3/5 in terms of average shift length, and on the powerplay he will be out there 1:40-1:50. I don't care how good an athlete he is- there is no NHLer that can play at the speed of today's game for that long. This isn't the 1970's. He averages over a minute for shifts when 40-50 seconds is the norm.

Posted by: jcurrin | February 18, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

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