"So the question now, it seems, is whether the 2009/2010 season was a turning point for Ovechkin-has the Ovechkin we all know and love come to an end and is it time for him to reinvent himself?"
Which got me thinking: is Ovie REALLY that predicable? Does he always make the same move? Thanks to Ovechkinfans.com and NHL.com, I was able to look back at all of Alex's goals on the season. What I saw was quite interesting.
I tried to classify Ovie's goals by how they were scored (the play leading up to the goal was more important than the type of shot). I found that the 50 goals scored fit nicely into the folllowing 10 categories:
- "The Ovie" - A rush down the left side, 1-on-1 the defenseman, shot through a screen or nifty move past.
- "The PP" - Onetimer or hard shot while playing point on the Power Play
- An offensive rush not led by Ovechkin leading to a quick transition goal
- A quick shot directly off a face off win
- A play already established in the offensive zone (play in the corners, cycling, leading to a shot)
- A rebound from another player's shot (tap-ins)
- A Breakaway
- An empty-netter
- A Penalty Shot
- A puck bobbled by a defender during a break out, deep in the defensive zone
Common conception is that Alex scores most of his goals in one of the first two ways. As it turns out, ‘The Ovie' is a distant third (6 goals). This past season, Ovechkin scored 9 goals of type #2 (‘The PP') and 14 goals of type #3 (a rush led by a teammate).
This season, while Ovie attempted ‘The Ovie' plenty of times it was defended better, to the tune of only 6 goals scored. Sure, shots were still taken and thanks to an increased presence near the crease, goals were scored from the rebounds of those shots (thus, Ovechkin's career-high assist totals). But Ovie himself scored more goals when he was not the one carrying the puck up the ice. When matched up against a backchecking forward, Ovechkin has the upper hand, as opposed go going one-on-one against a defender. Having passers such as Backstrom and Semin also helps matters.
It is interesting that Ovechkin scored 24 of his 31 even-strength goals (not counting empty net or penalty shot goals) on rushes into the zone. Setting up in the zone and working for shots accounted for only 3 goals all season for Ovechkin. When Ovechkin scores, the offense appears to resemble more of a basketball fast-break; using the team's speed to create quick goals rather than fighting in the corners in hopes of finding a hole in the defense's system. These types of goals were more often scored by Backstrom or Knuble than by Ovechkin.
Ovie was better last season when he used his teammates to help set him up for scoring chances. When the Caps are trailing late in the game, or in the playoffs when the team needs a win, things change. Rather than play the game that works, a game based around numbers and team speed, the tendency is to throw the puck to the left side and let Alex try ‘The Ovie', over and over again. The Caps get desperate and look to Ovie to win games for them (and Ovie takes it on himself to do so, as well).
Is Alex a ‘One-trick Pony'? Clearly, no. His goals-per-game pace was the best in the league. But his signature move has become predictable and good defenders and shot blockers have little difficulty defending it. If Alex started carrying the puck behind the net more and created time for teammates or backed the defenseman off and stopped high along the boards more often, he'd eventually get help and decrease the number of turn-overs in the offensive zone.
If Ovechkin can expand on his already World Class ability in the offensive zone by creating time for his linemates, next season should be pretty fun to watch.