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Posted at 9:38 AM ET, 02/24/2011

Statistical analysis: Alex Ovechkin at even strength, then and now

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

There have been many theories as to why Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin is on a 32-goal pace. Some say he never recovered from the loss to Canada in the Olympic quarterfinals. Or perhaps it was the loss to Montreal in the first round of the playoffs last year. Is he out of shape? Did the NHL suspensions last year cause him to change his game? Does he lose his ability to score goals if clean-shaven? Is he just not as great as we thought? Let's take a look.

During the 2009-10 season Ovechkin scored 37 goals on 217 shots, with a large portion of them coming from the dangerous scoring area inside the circles. It is this area of the ice that defines the term "scoring chance," and we should see a skater convert ~15 percent of them to goals, on average.

On the charts to follow, shots are indicated by a blue X while goals scored are a green circle.

Ovi EV 2010 WaPo.jpg

If the crease is Mike Knuble's "office," then the scoring-chance area was definitely Ovehckin's last season. With these types of shots and an NHL-best power play, it is easy to see why he topped 50 goals for the third straight year. So what happened?

Like many, I thought he may be seeing more of his shots blocked this year as a result of the Montreal series, but we can rule that out -- along with more shots being missed -- as a culprit in the Case of the Missing Goals.

YearShots taken per 60 minutesShots blocked per 60 minutesShots missed per 60 minutes

The table does show the quantity of shots has gone down, and the chart below will illustrate how the quality has as well.

Ovi EV 2011 WaPo.jpg

Clearly, Ovechkin has been kept from his "sweet spot" this year, and you don't need to be a math geek to know that fewer shots from less dangerous areas equals fewer goals scored. Let's hope Ovechkin can get back to being dangerous in the dangerous areas of the ice. A beard couldn't hurt either -- you know, just in case.

Previously: Alex Ovechkin on the power play, then and now

By Neil Greenberg  | February 24, 2011; 9:38 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Statistical analysis  
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Next: Dmitri Orlov joins Capitals at practice, Mike Green not skating


@fanohock1 that was taken from ESPN's rumor page but I agree with you. They sound like they think they have the TB Brad Richards not the Dallas one. Even then the Stars only gave up a backup goalie in Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern and a fourth-round pick in the next year's draft. It almost sounds like Dallas thinks he is worth more now then he was worth then. Dallas is going to be at his mercy at the end of the season because he and his agent can ask for too much and Dallas can't let him go for nothing.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 24, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"Does he lose his ability to score goals if clean-shaven?" - Neil G.

tominsocal proposed this with his "Sampson Theory" some time ago early in the season. Glad to see it is being considered.

Could you please look into Whiffgate for Mr. Insocal please? He's been dying to find the root of the problem. For the record, Whiffgate (a tominsocal coinage) is the unexplained phenomenon of Ovie's greatly increased whiffing percentage this year. He believes there is some sort of C-O-N-Spiracy.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 24, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Neil: Yes, please, would someone investigate WHIFFGATE???

Also, your numbers aren't making sense. Above if you add shots blocked to shots missed, alone those two are more than "shots taken." And you aren't even allowing for shots on goal.

Somehow I don't think he's getting 8-9 shots blocked per 60 mins. Otherwise, you add 8 shots blocked per 60 mins, 5 shots missed per 60 mins, about 10 shots on goal per 60 mins (I'm guessing there) and you arrive at 23 shots taken per 60 mins.

Just so happens I am a math geek and when numbers don't make sense they stick out like a bunch of fractured thumbs.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 24, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Neil: As you have alluded, these numbers (when corrected I think) are a symptom, but not the cause. I joke about WHIFFGATE, but seriously we could use some investigative reporting from the Post (or someone, anyone, in hockey) to dig into this thing about Ovi whiffing, not getting as many or as good of shots, getting pokechecked off the puck more; in general, not being as effective this year as in the past 5 years.

The last few games, he seems to be more of his old self. We all have bad moods at times, periods of time where we are less productive (yes, even moi) and times where everything is great but the results just aren't as good (as Ovi always suggests).

So, we have symptoms. What is the reason?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 24, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Katie: Will we ever get an in-depth story on Ovi's decreased production this year?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 24, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1. I think it is hard to get any real information. Everyone can watch what happens and come up with different "reasons" but they may or may not be true. It is not like if asked this team is going to come out and say he is hurt or this is how teams have shut him down and they would be stupid to do it. I think that is why there isn't much being said in the media about WHIFFGATE as you call it.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 24, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

VogsCaps Mike Vogel
Dmitri Orlov is on the ice with the #caps at practice today. Signed with AHL Hershey early in week, but not on current trip with Bears.

Would really like to be there to see how he is doing.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 24, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Tampay Bay acquired Simon Gagne from the Flyers

Posted by: Unknown19 | February 24, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

@Unknown19 Umm that was this summer. He has been there all season.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 24, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Green and Poti not practicing. Fehr skated before practice. MaJo appears to be alternating with Backstrom at C on top line according to a few peoples tweets.

Posted by: ThePat | February 24, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse


Maybe his original post was held for approval and they finally released it. ;P

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 24, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Here's your story on whiffgate.

It's about creating torque on the shaft of the stick. Obviously, the more torque, the harder the shot. The contact of the blade to the ice starts usually inches behind the puck. To create greater torque on the shaft, you increase the distance from the puck to where the blade first contacts the ice. If the shooter can't maintain the increase of torque on the stick during the shot, his blade prematurely comes off the ice and misses the puck. A slow motion replay best demostrates this.

Posted by: puckman | February 24, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The Bears just called up a goalie, did they get one hurt or are we about to trade a goalie?

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 24, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse


saw the same thing. And no idea. Holtby supposedly had an awesome game last night and didnt get hurt.

Posted by: ThePat | February 24, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

@puckman - So sounds like a strength issue, could it be related to performance enhancement drugs? …the lack of?

Posted by: guer_j | February 24, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse


Way to go off the deep end without anything resembling evidence or even rumor.

There's been quite a bit of talk about Ovechkin having a slow-healing wrist injury (e.g., so that seems like a much more likely explanation for whiffing, lower shooting percentage, etc.

Posted by: yosemite_sam | February 24, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

The other possibility to what puckman posted is he is lifting his head (like in golf) and taking his eye off the puck.

Anyone ever had golf lessons know they teach you to keep your head down and your eye aimed at the ball (and where the ball was) until you've finished the follow thru.

I don't know much about hockey shooting technique, but one of my initial thoughts with all that whiffing was improper hand-eye coordination (lifting head too soon).

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 24, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Psssh, boy you ALL have it wrong. We all (fans and players) complained about the ice being soft and the Verizon Center being too warm. So Uncle Ted decide to please us and turned down the temp making it extremely cold. Now the ice is colder and harder. As we all know, NHL pucks are made of rubber. And science will tell us, cold makes rubber shrink. Therefore I conclude that Ovie's whiffing issues are due to the fact he is accustomed to shooting normal NHL sized pucks, but at the V-center the pucks are slightly smaller and causing him to miss them or whiff.

And there you have it. Ovie's whiffing issues are a direct result of the fans complaining about it being too warm in the V-Center. Wtg everyone, I hope you are happy.

Solution??? Very simple, Ovie needs to bring back his "hot stick". This will cause the puck to heat up and return to its normal size.

It's science.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 24, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

There's been quite a bit of talk about Ovechkin having a slow-healing wrist injury (e.g., so that seems like a much more likely explanation for whiffing, lower shooting percentage, etc.

Posted by: yosemite_sam | February 24, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I agree that a hand or wrist injury is the most likely explanation. OV hasn't lost any foot speed, but sometimes his hands seem like they're made of stone.

Posted by: eric22 | February 24, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

[Also, your numbers aren't making sense. Above if you add shots blocked to shots missed, alone those two are more than "shots taken." And you aren't even allowing for shots on goal.]

You're over complicating it. Shots taken = Shots.

A "shot" on net is not considered a "shot" unless it has a possibility of going in.
So the numbers show:
Ov averages 11 shots a game (that are either stopped or goals)
His shot attempts averaged is 23.7
Essentially, he's averaging below 50% on his attempts to get a shot "on net". Note, that's different from shooting "at the net".

Posted by: paidinfull | February 24, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing wrong with Ovi. Caps scoring much less and Ovi should score less, simply b/c not so many total quality team scoring opportunities, for instance, b/c of very few rushes. He still scoring 1/6-1/7 of all teams goals.
Most media commentators and here paying attention to the fact that last year Ovi score 42 goals after 50+ games. This year he had about 17-19 goals and people immediately jump on him. What you forgetting is that during the last 30 something games he score only 8 goals!?! So, in reality, I expect that Ovi still on pace to score 40+ goals, b/c he has more emphasis this year on the end of season and during remaining 30 games he will score 20+ goals. Last 4-6 weeks indeed confirming this, he scoring almost in every Caps games. Considering playoffs it just what Caps need.

Posted by: yuvk03 | February 24, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Great analysis Neil.

Any way you can color code these to highlight breakaway/non-breakaway goals?

Cycling and shooting opportunities are necessarily going to be more scattered ('10-11?).

One knock on the more defensive-minded approach this season is that it slows down the transition. Slower transition = fewer breakaway opps = fewer shots from the "sweet spot".

Posted by: reddog278 | February 24, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Neil Greenberg is the biggest hack writer on all the blogs here on the Post. You are worse then JReid was on the the Redskins Insider blogs. Who cares about the multicolored charts and graphs you stay up all night making like a high school girl. Put some actual insight in your blogs. You know why Ovie isn't scoring? Have you asked him? Go to a freakin' practice and ask him and he will tell you he has played injured all season! Oh wait, to do that you would have to actually leave your mother's basement...

Posted by: lasthe | February 24, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse

stats nerd is back.

Posted by: alanb1 | February 24, 2011 11:04 PM | Report abuse

These players are young, rich and having a great time outside of hockey. Pls. google, under the google link images tab, "alex ovechkin party"

That says it all. BB, my favorite bird caller, is the permissive dad, the Caps really need a hard ass as coach, since the vets aren't stepping up, or aren't being heard. I'd pull the "C" from OVI, that would stir things up in the locker room.

The Caps players are a mainstay in the DC bar scene, even during the season. Tons of talent, little character or motivation.

Posted by: guruvinny | February 26, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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