March 17, 2009
Alexander Ovechkin has 49 goals and 89 points. He had a 10-game point scoring streak snapped last night, and has seven goals in his last 11 games.
Even as the Washington Capitals are playing wildly inconsistent hockey -- winless in four, winning three and then dropping a bad one in Atlanta last night -- Ovechkin's offensive output has been steady if not overpowering; for example, he hasn't had a multi-goal game since Feb. 15.
It's what he's been doing away from the puck and at even-strength that concerns JP from the influential Capitals blog Japers' Rink, whose post "It Starts At The Top" raises several concerns about Ovechkin's recent play. From Japers:
Do you want to know what is bad? Over that 12-game span mentioned above, AO has a minus-8 rating (including back-to-back minus-2's in his last two games), and hasn't had a plus rating in a single game. Not one. And his five even strength points are just two more than Shaone Morrisonn has over that same stretch.
Alex Ovechkin, it seems, is bored. Bored enough to take shifts off. Bored enough to not backcheck on every play as if the season depended on it... which may be fine, because the season doesn't depend on it. Yet.
Soon enough, though, one bad shift might be the difference between advancing a round in the playoffs and going home disappointed. Again. But for now, a subpar effort isn't terribly costly, and so they happen.
True, but they are happening; and happening at a point at which the Capitals' window for catching the Boston Bruins at the top of the conference is closing rapidly. From a team perspective, that means a tougher first-round draw and less home ice in deeper rounds. From Ovechkin's perspective, it could mean a more perilous path back to the Hart Trophy.
Last season, all the Capitals had to do was qualify for the playoffs for Ovechkin to be a stone-cold lock for MVP. They were the critical darlings; this season, they're a respected Stanley Cup contender whose momentum has slowed during the final push.
He'll win the goal-scoring race and likely fall short in the points race. He's due for another offensive hot streak that will likely quiet talk about his uneven play. JP's general point on Ovechkin is well-taken: It's less a time for panic than it is for AO to put this team on his back as a leader.
What was his award to lose several weeks ago is still his to lose; only it appears a little more feasible now that he might lose it. Ovechkin was automatic last year, but the Hart doesn't work like the fill-in-the-usual-name Norris or Vezina -- unless Ovechkin is about to embark on a Gretzky or Mario-level run of hardware.
This could change in one game, but right now Ovechkin isn't playing like the best player in hockey.
Let's not give this blowhard too much influence, but it's worth noting that Ovechkin is a minus-6 since having to engage in a public discourse with Don Cherry.