Not much has gone right for the Washington Capitals this season, but one bright spot has been the production of star winger Alex Ovechkin since his move to the right wing.
It wasn’t pretty at first. Ovechkin had no goals and just 11 shots as the Caps went 0-3 before the Great Eight convinced Coach Adam Oates to temporarily end the experiment and move him back to left wing. Washington then went 1-2-1, Ovechkin had just two goals (both power-play tallies) and the move back to right wing was made permanent.
Since then, he has re-emerged as a point-per-game player, with 20 points in 21 contests and is averaging 4.5 shots per game, the most since 2010-11. Ovechkin has also been less predictable, allowing him to improve his shot quality, even if puck luck is limiting him to only shooting 6.8 percent from the right side during even-strength.
(Note: some shots are missing from NHL’s play-by-play data)
Those shots in the scoring-chance area (loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots) are progress from earlier seasons, when he has been pushed more toward the outside while playing on the left wing. It has also allowed Ovechkin to re-assert his wrist shots (two goals on 27 even-strength shots) and snap shots (1 for 19) since the second move to the right side. He was 0 for 4 on both lining up on the left side this year and 0 for 5 in the first three games of the season.
It’s not a full return to the Art Ross and Hart-winning performances of a few years ago, but it does paint a more optimistic future for an elite sniper previously on the decline.
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.