Alex Ovechkin silenced his critics, scoring a league-best 32 goals en route to his third Hart Trophy (awarded to the league’s most valuable player) during the lockout-shortened, 48-game regular season. That’s a 55-goal pace over a full, 82-game season, which begs the question: Will Ovi 2.0 eclipse the 50-goal plateau in the near future?
Just 11 players have tallied 50 or more goals since the 2005-06 season, and only Ovechkin was on that pace (0.67 goals per game) this past year, but it is still improbable he once again scores 50 or more.
First, Ovechkin is getting older, and while there are examples of players having productive years in their late twenties (Ovechkin turned 27 in September), most are not 50-goal scorers. In fact, only two over the past seven years have turned the trick after their 26th birthday: Jaromir Jagr at age 33 in 2005-06 and Jarome Iginla in 2007-08 at age 30.
Second, the move to right wing did not cause a spike in either shot quantity or quality for Ovechkin during even strength. He took 2.6 shots per game and converted on 9.2 percent of them in 2011-12 and was at 2.8 and 10.4 percent this past year. Coach Adam Oates could find a way to increase Ovi’s shot output, but it is more likely to be consistent with the levels of the past few seasons.
Third, it is doubtful Washington’s power-play unit will be as proficient next year, which means fewer power-play goals for Ovechkin.
The Capitals scored 44 goals on 164 opportunities, leading the league at 26.8 percent efficiency. Since 1999, the teams that led the NHL in power-play efficiency saw a 4 percent decline on average the following year, with only the 1999-00 Detroit Red Wings and the 2006-7 Montreal Canadiens having a better conversion rate the following season. Plus, with Mike Ribeiro expected to depart via free agency, Oates’s 1-3-1 system will have some new skaters trying to find chemistry with the first power-play unit.
Individually, Ovechkin converted on 16 of his 71 power-play shots (22.5 percent, his best mark over the past six years), a rate high enough above the league average (13.6 percent) that we shouldn’t expect it to continue, even in Oates’s revamped system.
So what should we reasonably expect from Ovechkin in 2013-14? Taking his shot-per-game rates for last season (which reversed a three-year trend of decline) and using some best-case scenarios, we can project the Great Eight to score 23 goals during even strength (2.8 shots per game converting at a 10.2 percent rate, his best in past three years) and another 21 chipped in when Washington has the man advantage (1.5 shots per game converting at a 17 percent clip, same rate as 2011-12 but still less than 2013) for a 44-goal campaign over next year’s 82-game season.
Chances of a 50-goal or better season in 2013-14: 24.6 percent.