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2021-22 Rink Wrap: Alex Ovechkin

From Backstrom to Wilson, we’re taking a look at and grading the 2021-22 season for the players who played a significant role for the Caps during the campaign, with an eye towards 2022-23. Next up, Alex Ovechkin.

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Florida Panthers v Washington Capitals - Game Six Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Stats:

Regular Season

Playoffs

The Charts:

via The Athletic
via @JFreshHockey
via Evolving-Hockey
via HockeyViz
via HockeyViz

The Key Stats: Ovechkin reached the 50-goal mark for the ninth time in his career, tying Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history (and becoming the first to have one at age 36 or later), and passed Jaromir Jagr for the third-most goals in NHL history (766).

The Good: Ovechkin hit the 1,400-point mark, broke into the top-20 scorers in history, and became the NHL’s all-time power-play goal leader (275), while continuing to climb the big ladder and passing legends like Jagr, Brett Hull and Marcel Dionne along the way; Gordie Howe, you are on the clock (22 goals away). Ovechkin tied Gretzky for the most 40-goal seasons (12) in NHL history and notched his 16th career 30-goal season, one behind Mike Gartner’s all-time mark, while also becoming the second player to fire 6,000 shots on goal in a career (Ray Bourque, whose record 6,209 SOGs will also fall at Ovi’s hands next winter).

But it wasn’t just epic milestones for Ovechkin in 2021-22, it was also epic production. Ovechkin hit the 90-point plateau for the first time since 2009-10 (the first 36-year-old to do so since 2006-07), had 40 assists for the first time since that same year, and registered 60 even-strength points. With 90 points on the Caps’ 270 totals goals, Ovechkin pointed on one-third of the team’s tallies for the first time since 2017-18.

Alex Ovechkin is an absolute monster offensively. Still.

The Bad: There’s “The Bad” as the term is used in this space to dissect on-ice gaffes, shortcomings in a player’s game and negative career trends. Then there’s the real bad - legitimate evil in the world, and people who are fairly or unfairly connected to it. The former is trivial in comparison, of course, but for people fortunate enough to be in a position to consume the entertainment product that is hockey as a means of temporary escapism from some of the realities of the world, these nitpicks matter, and that’s what’s being discussed here. Make no mistake about it, however - there was a cloud that rolled in over Alex Ovechkin’s 2021-22 season that had little to do with hockey. And it matters.

Anyway... “The Bad” in Alex Ovechkin’s season is the same as it’s been more or less forever - his defensive ability or, if you prefer, indifference. To the extent that the current state of hockey analytics is able to measure individual defensive contributions, Ovechkin’s metrics are truly horrific (see the player cards and heat maps above). That said... who cares?! There’s no position on the ice less impactful in terms of team defense than wing, and it should be relatively easily mitigated with linemates and systems, despite the sport’s orthodoxy on playing “the right way.” (To wit, look at the charts above that peg Ovechkin as a second- or third-percentile defensive player, but still have him in the 95th and 76th percentile overall.) As we wrote back in January:

So did Barry Trotz turn Alex Ovechkin into a better, more complete hockey player? Maybe. But not to the extent that many would have you believe, and not necessarily permanently, even while Trotz was still behind the Caps’ bench. Alex Ovechkin has never been and will never be a particularly good defensive forward (nor does he have to be). And while his attention to that end of the ice has waxed and waned at times, the systems in which he’s played and the personnel with whom he’s played (not to mention a few choice anecdotes and GIFs) have probably exaggerated those peaks and valleys. Measuring defensive impact in a sport like hockey is hard; telling the same old story is not.

Beside his play outside of the offensive zone, there’s a curious and possibly worrisome Ovechkin trend that has emerged over the past two seasons: in 11 playoff games under Peter Laviolette, Alex Ovechkin has yet to score an even-strength goal (two power-play markers a year ago, a single one this postseason; he does have four even-strength helpers over that span). Needless to say, the Caps need more playoff production from their captain going forward if they’re going to make any sort of run, whether that means better load management, better systems or just better Ovechkin.

The Video:

The Discussion: After another 50-goal season, Alex Ovechkin sits just 114 tallies behind Wayne Gretzky for the all-time mark; if it’s no longer a question of “if,” but “when”... when? How can the Caps best expedite that process and is there any trade-off between doing so and winning hockey games (and, if so, which is more important to you as a fan)? Speaking of being a fan, how (if at all) have Ovechkin’s off-ice actions and statements impacted your enjoyment of his on-ice achievements and legacy? Finally, what would it take for you to give Ovechkin a 10 next season?

The Vote: Rate Alex Ovechkin below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

Poll

How do you rate Alex Ovechkin’s 2021-22 season?

  • 21%
    10
    (41 votes)
  • 44%
    9
    (85 votes)
  • 23%
    8
    (45 votes)
  • 7%
    7
    (14 votes)
  • 2%
    6
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    5
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    4
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    3
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (0 votes)
190 votes total Vote Now