It’s difficult for some to grasp how a unit featuring skaters as skilled as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and (when not scratched) Alexander Semin could rank 13th overall in the NHL at 17.3 percent.
The drought shouldn't have surprised anyone. Last season, Washington's power play was mediocre. The Capitals converted on 17.5 percent of their opportunities and scored just 46 times. This after the unit was the best in the league, converting at a 25.2 percent clip and tallying 79 goals in
A lot of it had to do with regression to the mean. The 16.5 percent shooting percentage in 2009-10 was simply unsustainable, and it fell to a mere 10.3 percent the following year.
Much like Goldilocks and the porridge, the shooting percentage during the power play (12.7 percent) seems to have settled in on “just right,” and it might be time for Coach Bruce Boudreau to allow Ovechkin to play more with the man advantage.
In the past, I have advocated that less time is more for the Great Eight, but the numbers show it now makes more sense to have him out there at the level he was: roughly about 80 percent of the time during the man advantage.
Why the change of heart?
Boudreau has finally taken Ovechkin off the point and his average shot distance is now 29.8 feet. One of the benefits of taking closer shots is higher accuracy, and Ovechkin is now shooting 12.5 percent as opposed to the dismal 5.8 percent of last year. One easy way to take advantage of this new scheme is to simply give Ovechkin more time during the power play so he can generate more high-percentage shots.
The unit is also generating more scoring chances (SCF/60) with him than it did without him and is scoring more goals (GF/60), which did not happen last year.
|Power-play unit, 2011-12||SCF/60||GF/60|
Shots at net has been shown to be one of the best indicators of future power-play success, and the unit is once again seeing an increase with Ovechkin on the ice — another reversal from last year.
It would be interesting to see the results of the power play with Ovechkin taking more shifts with Backstrom, a talented, playmaking center, and Troy Brouwer, a forechecking, physical winger in front of the net. That trio has converted nearly a third of its scoring chances into goals (5 for 16). Perhaps that's just the thing Ovechkin needs to jump start his scoring.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg.