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Posted at 7:04 AM ET, 11/28/2010

Statistical analysis: Don't count Alex Ovechkin out just yet

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

There are whispers that the Art Ross Trophy is a two-man race between Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby, but don't let a 34-goal, 106-point pace fool you: Alex Ovechkin is just getting warmed up.

Winning the Art Ross Trophy (awarded for the regular-season scoring title) requires individual skill, a good supporting cast and some lucky bounces. Since the lockout, it has taken at least 112 points to win the scoring title. Miss scoring a point in just one or two games, and it could cost you the trophy come April.

As it stands today, Ovechkin (31 points, 24 games played) is third behind Tampa Bay's Stamkos (38 points, 23 games played) and Pittsburgh's Crosby (37 points, 24 games played) for the NHL points lead, but December and January are typically Ovi's strongest months in a season:

Data is from 2005-6 to 2009-10 seasons

Why he will catch Crosby: The Penguins' captain has seen less of his point totals come from his own goals scored (37 percent) over his career while Ovechkin has seen more than half of his totals from goals he scores himself, putting himself in control of his own destiny. Not to mention Ovechkin's linemates -- Backstrom, Laich, Semin and Knuble -- are superior to Crosby's Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz.

Sure, Crosby shared the Richard Trophy (awarded to the top goal scorer) last year and is on pace for another 50-goal season, but Ovechkin may very well overtake his arch rival in the days leading up to the Winter Classic, buoyed by historically scoring more than twice as many goals per game in December than Crosby.

Why he will catch Stamkos: I mentioned earlier that missing a point in one or two games could cost a player the title. Stamkos was on pace for a 142-point season before being held pointless during a 6-0 blowout against Washington, not only lowering his season projection to a still-impressive 135 points, but possibly costing the young phenom the chance for 50 in 50 as well.

Hot starts are also nothing new for Stamkos, who scored goals at a 22.7 percent rate in October last year, only to slow down in November (20 percent), December (10 percent) and January (13 percent). A lights-out 30 percent shooting percentage in February helped his cause for sharing the Richard Trophy last year but clearly was unsustainable. How Stamkos handles this year's potential December slump will decide if he is even in the conversation come April.

Ovechkin has his work cut out for him, but the top line is "back on track," and over the last two games The Great 8 has been on the ice for nearly two thirds (25 of 37) of Washington's scoring chances. While he may be the underdog, Ovechkin is not a long shot by any means. So don't count him out just yet.

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

By Neil Greenberg  | November 28, 2010; 7:04 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Statistical analysis  
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Why this statistical analysis is meaningless: Stamkos has not been in the league long enough for him to establish meaningful trends, Crosby has worked on improving his goal scoring, faceoffs, and the Pens make great trades at the deadline, and Sedin is not included. OV is clearly off his pace this year for whatever reason (more coverage, becoming more predictable, Knubs is off his game, etc...). I seriously doubt OV will win the Rocket Richard, and frankly I don't care. I care about the playoffs and the Cup.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | November 28, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Watched Holtby toss a 4-0 shutout last night in his first game back in Hershey. Crowd gave him a standing-O when he was introduced. We were right behind him in Row B--he played a great game. Of course, the rest of the Bears showed up and played a pretty good defensive game, too, unlike his last two starts for the Caps...

Posted by: hockeydad | November 28, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

what JIMALLCAPS2 said above is exactly right... maybe Ovi's been pacing himself for the playoffs but the trend is clear since last season.

Which is Crosby and Stamkos seem to keep improving as far as their goal-scoring and overall offensive productions and Ovi seems to be stuck.

Posted by: joek443 | November 28, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

@joek, I see OV improving on assists. His overall points has him at 3. OV's passing and eyes on the ice have improved. He knows that teams are over-playing him, so he makes passes to Semin and Backis or the rebounds with 2 players on him leaves someone else wide open. OV is hitting as hard as ever, he plays with passion, and he is more of a team player than his first couple years. OV is no longer just a superstar on a mediocre team, but a captain on a cup contender. Look at other players that have matured and rounded out their game: Heatly, Marleau, and Thorton. Yeah, they are all Sharks, but these guys do not have the same lofty numbers as their early years, but who would not want them on your team? Is it any wonder that the Sharks are yearly contenders and just as snakebit in the playoffs as the Caps?

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | November 28, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I don't care if OV is last in every category, as long as the Caps are on pace to win the Cup. OV has won individual awards before and it has meant zilch to Washington and the Caps. The cup is really all that matters.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | November 28, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Maybe OV's individual awards meant a little more than zilch, but it hasn't propelled the Caps popularity in the same sense that a Championship would. I wanna see a parade down Pennsylvania with a hoisted silver Cup. That's what it will take to shut up everyone up.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | November 28, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Why is it that Crosby got TONS of credit when he barely scored any goals but had tons of assists, but Ovie has greatly improved his passing game but is now not playing well...he is right up there in points with Crosby, though I doubt he will catch Stamkos.

Also...why is no one talking about Semin winning the scoring race! He will probably blow it on purpose thought...just to avoid having to give a speech at the awards ceremony :)

Posted by: capscoach | November 28, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

@ capscoach,

Nah, Semin will just bring his interpreter or Ovie as interpreter to annoy the hell out of Milbury and those types. LOL.

Posted by: nicety251 | November 28, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Worth noting that Henrik Sedin won last year based largely on his assists total. Actually I think either Ovi or that guy from Pitt should have won it but the voters couldn't decide between the two so Henrik was the compromise pick.

As it stands Stamkos will run away with it, but the season is only 1/4 done and there is a very real chance for one of those three to incur an injury that will curtail their stats.

But I agree that Ovi is not out of it yet. But one guy who is? Kovalchuk.

And hey, I forget to mention the other Alex. He should be in the conversation too.

Posted by: rjma1 | November 28, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Not sure when this was written. As of this morning, Crosby now has 40 points in 25 games -- 18 goals and 22 assists. Stamkos has 39 points in 24 games - 21 goals and 18 assists. But actually, I no longer care if Crosby or anyone else has more points or more goals than Ovie. I want the Caps to win the Cup. On the analysis, Stamkos is younger and has been in the league for a shorter period of time. With more experience, he should improve. Not sure why if he had a December slump last year that it necessarily implies that Stamkos will have a December scoring slump this season. On Crosby, the announcers for yesterday's game said that he is getting more points from goals this season compared to prior years.

Posted by: NovaCath1 | November 28, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: capscoach | November 28, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Ovie hasn't been the same since he got suspended last year. I do care that the Capitals have the best regarded player in the NHL, especially if he will be making 10 million a year. It puts people in the seats, builds up the NHL, and usually helps the team win the big prize.

Now back to that prize, that is what Caps fans care about the most. We want the Caps to get the stanley cup. If this can be done without a great season from Ovie, it's a worthy sacrifice. But dont kid yourself, watching Ovie score amazing goals is something fans want to see.

Posted by: theAnswerIs42 | November 28, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Good point, Neil.

I figure that Ovi will probably score more goals during the latter part of the season -- just be the law of averages (i.e. "Regression to the mean") He may not lead the lead but will have a better 2nd half.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 28, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

i think maybe Ovi wants a Conn Smythe more than another Ross or Richard this year. this "slump" might be because hes trying to play more of a team game .

Posted by: heathdog1119 | November 28, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Who cares? It's all about the Cup. Yzerman put up 85 and 69 points respectively in the back to back Cup years in the late 90s. At the end of Ovechkin's career, we will look at his totals, which will probably be amazing, but moreso his total Cup victories and international successes.

Posted by: laugh_riot | November 29, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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