Diminished Ice, Diminished ReturnsPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
What do Trent Klatt, Nelson Emerson, Dean McAmmond, Jay Pandolfo and Blake Comeau have in common? (answer later) We’re nearly a quarter of the way into the 2011-12 season, and already there have been a lot of words written and a lot of words said about the on-ice performance of Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. Aside from all the words, there are the numbers: seven goals, seven assists for 14 points in 18 games while averaging 18:46 per night in ice time. Ovechkin is tied for 62nd in the league in scoring, and he’s 67th among all forwards in ice time. Last season, he skated an average of 21:22 per game, the lowest ice time figure of his career. His single-season high average was 23:06 in 2007-08, the season in which he established a franchise record with 65 goals. Until this season, Ovechkin had never been lower than 11th among all NHL forwards in average ice time; he was 11th in his sophomore season of 2006-07 and never lower than eighth in the league in any other season. Ovechkin’s power play ice time has been lopped by about a third since his rookie season, but that’s to be expected as the team around him became more talented. He skated 6:43 per game on the power play in 2005-06. That figure diminished virtually every season to a low of 4:28 per contest last season. Thus far in 2011-12, Ovechkin is getting 4:12 in power play ice time per game. The dwindling power play ice time has led to diminishing power play returns. Ovechkin recorded 52 power play points (21 goals, 31 assists) during his rookie season when his power play ice time was at its apex. The totals have gone down since, to a low of 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) last season. Thus far in 2011-12, Ovechkin has two goals and five assists on the power play. The easy answer would appear to be for coach Bruce Boudreau to jack up Ovechkin’s ice time, particularly on the power play. But ice time should be earned, not given. And you can make the case that Ovechkin hasn’t earned his lately. As the captain of a struggling team (3-7-1 in their last 11, 1-5-1 in their last seven), you’d like to see more consistent fire from No. 8. He had a team-high eight shots on goal in Saturday’s 7-1 loss at Toronto, but didn’t launch his first until the Caps were already in a 4-1 hole. Most of his shots on net came in late third-period bids when Washington was down 6-1. When your team is in a tailspin, and trying to fight its way out of that tailspin, your best players have to be your best players. That hasn’t been the case for Ovechkin and the Capitals. Over the last seven games, Washington is 1-5-1. The Caps have been outscored 27-13 in those seven contests. The team’s leading scorers during that stretch: Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich with four points each. Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each have two goals and two points in the seven games. Ovechkin is pointless in his last four games. Chimera has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last five contests. Odd then, that Ovechkin would wind up with 19:29 in ice time on Saturday – second most among all Caps forwards – while Chimera skated just 10:53, his lowest figure in nine games and the lowest of any Caps forward in the game. It’s unlikely that Ovechkin finishes the season ranked 67th among all forwards in the league in ice time. And if he does, you should start ratcheting down your expectations of what to expect from him numbers-wise. Ovechkin’s career low in points is the 85 he posted last season. None of the skaters who have finished 67th in the league in ice time among forwards has managed that many points since the league started tracking ice time in 1997-98. Pierre Turgeon (30 goals and 52 assists) in 2000-01 and Marian Hossa (36 goals, 46 assists) in 2003-04 each managed an 82-point campaign in their season as the 67th leading ice time getter among forwards. The average output for the league’s 67th ranked forward in terms of ice time since 1997-98: 21 goals, 31 assists for 52 points. Klatt, Emerson, McAmmond, Pandolfo and Comeau are among the players who have finished 67th among forwards in average ice time since 1997-98. With all due respect to those solid NHL citizens, you’d like to think Ovechkin stands out a little more than that group. Ovechkin’s four-game pointless streak matches the longest of his career, and its his longest since Feb. 2007. Once he gets going, the Caps will get going. He’s a better player than he has shown thus far this season, and the Caps are a better team than they’ve shown thus far this season.
Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov made his NHL debut with Washington on Monday night against Phoenix at the tender age of 20. Orlov skated 11:56 and registered three hits on the night. Monday’s game was the 152nd career NHL contest for Karl Alzner, the defenseman chosen to serve as the young Russian’s