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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 12/25/2010

Statistical analysis: Is the Caps' power play better without Alex Ovechkin?

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

Alex Ovechkin has seen 189 minutes of power-play time for the Caps but has not scored
a goal in the last 80-plus man-advantage opportunities. He is one of the best players
in the world, but when the best player has only two power-play goals with nearly half the
season in the books, it may be time to try something different.

Here are the shots Ovechkin has taken when on the power play over the last ten games, which includes the loss to Atlanta in which the team saw a season-high 15 chances on the power play and had nothing to show for it.



Alex Ovechkin's shots on goal during the power play for the Caps' last 10 games. (Data from NHL.com)


Ten games. A few shots from barely inside the high-quality scoring areas. Zero goals. Shots like these have actually reduced the effectiveness of the power play. Consider how the Caps' power-play unit does with and without some of its key players this season:

Power play with Power play without
Skater TOI Scoring chances for Goals for Convert% Scoring chances for Goals for Convert%
Ovechkin 189.4 131 19 14.5% 18 4 22.2%
Green 148.3 103 15 14.6% 46 8 17.4%
Backstrom 128.4 96 16 16.7% 53 7 13.2%
Laich 124.3 90 15 16.7% 59 8 13.6%
Semin 118.5 97 16 16.5% 52 7 13.5%
Knuble 81.3 40 5 12.5% 109 18 16.5%
Carlson 68.4 46 10 21.7% 103 13 12.6%
Fehr 67.5 45 7 15.6% 104 16 15.4%
Perreault 17.3 7 1 14.3% 142 22 15.5%
Johansson 11.5 5 0 0.0% 144 23 16.0%


The boys in red see more than a 50 percent increase in converting power-play chances to goals when The Great 8 is off the ice.

I am not suggesting taking him off the power play entirely, but reducing Ovechkin's man-advantage shifts or keeping him off the second unit can not only help bring the Caps' power-play percentage back to last year's NHL leading levels, but could help stabilize a team that seems to have lost its winning ways.


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

By Neil Greenberg  | December 25, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Power play, Statistical analysis  
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Comments

Statistical Analysis:

Should the person in a scoring slump not be on the power play where the sole metric for success metric is scoring?

Posted by: dimagus | December 25, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I wish that they had two completely separate power play units so Ovechkin would not be on the ice for the entire two minutes. I agree he should not be out there for the entire power play.

Posted by: NovaCath | December 25, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree Ovie should maybe not be on there for all two minutes but disagree with the shot selection. He plays the point currently and there is nothing wrong with taking good shots from the point on the power play. The key is to have traffic and getting rebounds when you have an extra man, something the Caps have not been doing. But the point men should take shots, the more the better on the PP.

Posted by: alagarts | December 25, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

OV reminds me of the great strikeout swinger Ryan Howard. The Phils keep running him out there in hopes that he might run into one every once in a while. OV keeps firing away aimlessly hoping one might go in from time to time. The problem is none of them are going in anymore and the coach is too weak except for foul mouth harangues between periods to do anything about it. Sure won't tune in to any product BB endorses on TV with that mouth! Apparently the player have tuned out his mouth too!

Posted by: dull | December 25, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Greenberg crosses the line, provide your petty stats analysis But don't transition into a coach.

People like you make me sick, write and comment without any experience. What a pathetic way to justify a pay check

Posted by: Smitten | December 25, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I wish that they had two completely separate power play units so Ovechkin would not be on the ice for the entire two minutes. I agree he should not be out there for the entire power play.
-----------------------------------

Just goes to show that BB has learned NOTHING from the debacle in the playoffs last year. Montreal shuts down his one and only PP unit and he has no plan B to counter it.

The problem is you don't have 40 games to turn things around in the playoffs, you only have TWO WEEKS. If something doesn't work, you gotta have a plan B in place or you will be out in the golf course again in late April.

Posted by: joek443 | December 25, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm just bewildered how BB keeps having OVI play the point on the PP. It's one thing to keep him there when the PP is successful but it hasn't been for a very long time.

Just look at other teams with good PPs and where their best players are positioned... usually by the boards on the off wing. Even if they don't score they open up enough space for others to score.

Stamkos
Crosby
Datsyuk
Zetterberg
H Sedin
etc.

Posted by: BigGameSid | December 25, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm just bewildered how BB keeps having OVI play the point on the PP. It's one thing to keep him there when the PP is successful but it hasn't been for a very long time.

Posted by: BigGameSid | December 25, 2010 3:40 PM

i agree that they need to move him off of the point. the game they played him on RW - he played better than he had in a week.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 25, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm not exactly sure what the relevance of goals per scoring chance is. Not trying to assert that there is no relevance--I'm really just saying I don't know what it is.

But whatever the answer, it seems to me the more relevant metric would be goals per minute of power play ice time, except the differences show up better when you flip it and do number of minutes of ice time per goal (and that means lower is better). Taking those ten players, and the goals numbers from this chart, and taking the power play ice time from www.nhl.com, you end up with this. This is the number of minutes of the player's power play ice time per power play goal that is scored by the Capitals.

1. Carlson 6.83
2. Semin 7.40
3. Laich 8.28
4. Backstrom 8.65
5. Fehr 9.66
6. Green 9.89
7. Ovechkin 9.97
8. Knuble 16.26

I exclude Perreault because there has only been one goal during his power play time, and Johansson because there have been no goals during his.

Now, the tendency might be to compare Ovechkin to the other forwards in this list, but on power plays he operates as a defenseman. So it seems to me that the most relevant comparisons would be to defensemen. The only two on that list are Carlson who is way ahead of everyone else and Green who is a statistically insignificant amount ahead of Ovechkin.

What this tells me, if the first part of this season is a true representation of overall tendencies, is:

(1) Carlson should always be on the power play #1 team.
(2) Green and Ovechkin are essentially interchangeable at the point on power plays, so either could be paired with Carlson on the power play #1 team.
(3) I wish we had some numbers for the other defensemen so we would know what to think about the Green and Ovechkin numbers.
(4) Ovechkin has the most power play ice time, and that could easily be lowering his numbers because of exhaustion.
(5) It may be the case that it is at least unwise to use Ovechkin for the full 2 minutes at the point on every power play, because he might be more useful at even strength, and/or he might be more useful playing a forward position on the power play #1.

I think that at this point I would agree with this author's conclusion that it would be wise to keep him off the power play #2 unit, and I would maybe try using him as a forward with Semin and Backstrom. I might try to have Green or Carlson be kept on the ice for the full 2 minutes and use another actual defenseman for the power play #2.

Posted by: youaresquishy | December 25, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Headlines that ask questions are always a sure sign that the headline writer doesn't have a clue. In this case, he/she hasn't bothered to read the text. Nobody with half a brain would suggest keeping Ovechkin off the power play. Learn a little hockey and while you're at it, learn your own craft.

Posted by: jtinky | December 25, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect? Sidney Crosby is a hockey superstar. Ovechkin is just a sheep squeezer from Pukeyourguts, Russia.

The only one with the Caps with less winning production: the Owner. What's his name.. Lorenzo Someone or Other?

Don't forget. Sheep Squeezers never score.

Go Penguins.

Thanks much. HLB

Posted by: HLBeckPE | December 25, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect? Sidney Crosby is a hockey superstar. Ovechkin is just a sheep squeezer from Pukeyourguts, Russia.

The only one with the Caps with less winning production: the Owner. What's his name.. Lorenzo Someone or Other?

Don't forget. Sheep Squeezers never score.

Go Penguins.

Thanks much. HLB

Posted by: HLBeckPE | December 25, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

The talent is not getting the results. At times they look simply lost.

Coaching. I haven't heard anyone suggest the talent is uncoachable or resists coaching.

While folks keep saying wait for April or this will work itself out, you can't forget Montreal. Sure we took record levels of shots but they did not go in.

Talent is there, need the engineer.

Posted by: tslats | December 26, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

'@hlbeck?...what shade of lipstick doesSid where?

Posted by: boomer44 | December 26, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

youaresquishy wrote:

What this tells me, if the first part of this season is a true representation of overall tendencies, is:

(1) Carlson should always be on the power play #1 team.
(2) Green and Ovechkin are essentially interchangeable at the point on power plays, so either could be paired with Carlson on the power play #1 team.
(3) I wish we had some numbers for the other defensemen so we would know what to think about the Green and Ovechkin numbers.
(4) Ovechkin has the most power play ice time, and that could easily be lowering his numbers because of exhaustion.
(5) It may be the case that it is at least unwise to use Ovechkin for the full 2 minutes at the point on every power play, because he might be more useful at even strength, and/or he might be more useful playing a forward position on the power play #1.

-------------------------------

I like your analysis except you left out the obvious. Ovechkin shouldn't ever be on point since you have Carlson and Green who can play point for the first unit. First off, OV has trouble keeping the puck in. He often seems to fumble it even when he gets to it. He is forced to skate back to play fetch multiple times per PP which is exhausting and takes away from his scoring effectiveness. Poti, Hannan and Schultz can also be trusted on point when healthy with Poti being a good puck mover as well so there are plenty of options other then OV.

OV proved his effectiness as a passer early this season so moving him down the wall will open that opportunity as well as putting him in position for the one timer.

Putting OV on crease backfired when we tried it against the birds so that seems like a bust.

Obviously BB the tinkerer is trying different things while he still has time to experiment but it seems the tried and true half wall is still the best option for OV.

Posted by: congero | December 26, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Agree that OV is more effective on the half wall in power plays. That's where Stamkos seems to get most of his (many) goals, and OV--when he connects--has IMO a more powerful shot than Stamkos.

Posted by: Rhino40 | December 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

@dull

I'm sorry, but anyone who is surprised that hockey coaches swear in the locker room & acting self righteous about it is a complete idiot.

@youaresquishy

Great analysis. I also think that using Ovie on the point is no longer necessary. BB started doing it when we didn't have another good option other than Green. Now we have Carlson who is excellent at running a PP. So Green & Carlson should be manning the point while Ovie should be on the off wing. Ready for cross ice passes & one timers.

Posted by: ranndino | December 26, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

@youaresquishy

Agree with your analysis. Since playoff time, I had been calling for Carlson to be placed on our power play. Along with Ovi not being out there for the full two minutes. Ovi has great stamina but there's a limit in that department and, after a point, he stops being effective.

@ranndino

Your point is probably correct. Ovi may have been on the point since BB didn't have as many options. The off wing sounds like a good place for Ovi on the PP.

I figure we should have Green and Carlson on the points, and possibly Poti who was supposedly an offensive type defenseman at one point in his life.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | December 26, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Isn't Ovi supposed to the greatest power forward in hockey since, well I don't know... Cam Neely maybe?

I don't remember the Bruins doing something stupid like putting him on the point on their PP.

Posted by: joek443 | December 26, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

BTW is Ovi really a power forward? I mean he hits like Neely but he doesn't really make a habit of putting himself in the high traffic area.

Posted by: joek443 | December 26, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

The problem is he should not be on the point. All of his shots have 3 guys in front. He never gets one timers. He and Semin should be on the boards, Green and Carlson on the point and Backstrom in front. OV on the point is a waste of talent. A huge waste.

Posted by: Sticksboi35 | December 26, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

A sure sign that the Caps are back on track... the Penguins trolls are getting more vocal LOL.

Cant wait to see you in your powder blue sweaters next Saturday

Go Caps!

Posted by: allCAPS | December 27, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

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