Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning up next: Any point to worrying about production of Capitals' Ovechkin?

With three seconds left in regulation Wednesday night, Alex Ovechkin finally flashed the quick release and lethal shot he's known for, firing a shot at Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason during a power play. The shot on goal was Ovechkin's first of the game, barely preserving a streak of games with at least one that dates from March 12, 2013.

Ovechkin is averaging 3.94 shots per game this season, compared to 5.04 a season ago, and though he leads the Capitals with 14 goals, that's three fewer than he had through 31 games last season.

If he maintains his current pace, he could finish with one of the least productive seasons of his high-scoring career. Ovechkin's chances of winning a fifth straight Rocket Richard Trophy for the most goals in the league seem bleak, as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has 23 goals through 28 games played. More than a third of the way into the season, Crosby is one of 10 players with more goals than Ovechkin.

So: Is there reason to be concerned about Washington's captain, who Friday faces the Lightning in Washington?

"Yeah, I have concern his production's down because we need his production to win," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I know that the history will state that he will get on some hot streak here and he'll score some goals, but if we're going to be successful, we've got to have 'Ovi' being productive."

Ovechkin is averaging his fewest shots per game since the 2011-12 season, when he finished with 38 goals, just the second time in his career he has had fewer than 40 goals in a non-lockout year. Ovechkin has scored at least 50 goals in three straight seasons, but with 14 goals and nine assists, he is averaging the fewest points per game of his career, 0.74, and he's on pace for roughly 37 goals.

He hasn't started a season like this since 2011, when he had 10 goals and 12 assists through 31 games and finished with a career-low 65 points. Ovechkin notched 50 goals and 21 assists in 79 games last season.

"Ovi carries high expectations by the fans, us, everybody to put up offensive numbers," Trotz said. "The best way he can do that is with his line working together and finding ways how he can get open. … Right now he's had a dry spell where he hasn't had a lot of shots. Is that a little bit of him, a little bit of his linemates, a little bit of how we're going, or whatever? But he's capable of going through a week where he'll get 10 goals, and we'll go, 'Everything's fine.' He's dynamic, and we need him to win, plain and simple."

In the past two-plus seasons under Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan, the Capitals have striven to surround Ovechkin with talent to share the burden of offensive production. Evidence of the Capitals' decreased dependence on him can be found in their past 12 games, during which he has scored just two goals while they've gone 7-3-2.

Part of the decline in scoring could be related to decreased minutes. He is averaging 18:46 of ice time, down from 20:19 a year ago, as the Capitals try to keep the 31-year-old fresh for later in the season. For the first time since 2011-12, Ovechkin is averaging fewer than two unblocked shot attempts per game on the power play.

Trotz said he has spoken to Ovechkin about playing detailed when he's without the puck, something that could help regain possession more efficiently, as opposed to getting exhausted defending for an entire shift. After several practices, Ovechkin stayed on the ice late to get repetitions tipping defensemen's point shots in front of the net, seemingly searching for a new way to score. Hours before Wednesday night's game in Philadelphia, Ovechkin went on the ice in shorts and shoes, stickhandling a puck and then shooting it into the boards for several minutes before returning to the locker room.

"I think with Ovi, he goes sometimes in little bits of spurts," Trotz said. "It wouldn't surprise me if he got 10 goals the next five games. That's the way he sometimes goes.

"You know he's going to score. As long as he's shooting, he's going to score. When he's not getting those shots, then he's not going to score a whole heck of a lot. He's going to continue to pound that puck at the net, and they're going to find ways to get to the back of it."

Lightning up next: Any point to worrying about production of Capitals' Ovechkin? 12/23/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2016 1:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa lawyer Fred Ridley to be new chairman of Augusta National, Masters' home (w/ video)


    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fred Ridley first came to Augusta National to compete in the 1976 Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion, and he played the opening round in the traditional pairing with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

  2. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, activate Alex Cobb


    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  3. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    The Austin Pruitt experiment might be over, or at least put on pause. After allowing six runs over seven innings to Seattle on Friday, the rookie didn't get through the fourth Wednesday, giving up five runs on four homers. His ERA for past six starts: 5.29.

  5. Six home runs doom Rays in loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A curve that didn't bounce was the difference Wednesday as the Rays lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays in front of 8,264, the smallest Tropicana field crowd since Sept. 5, 2006.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) greets center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) at the plate after his two run home run in the third inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.