5 Changes That Alex Ovechkin Needs to Make to His Game
Washington has only nine of a possible 26 points and currently sits last in both the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference.
Through 13 games, Ovechkin has five goals and 10 points. He is currently tied for second on the Capitals in both goals and points. Furthermore, Ovechkin is well behind the league-leading pace set by Buffalo's Thomas Vanek, who currently has 11 goals and 23 points.
Alex Ovechkin needs to change a few things about his game, and fast. First of all, he needs to score more goals. To do so, he should become a more accurate shooter and perhaps change his approach on the ice. And what about his leadership? He is the captain after all.
Here are five changes that Ovechkin needs to make to his game.
5. More Accurate Shooting
Ovechkin has led the NHL in this category six different times in his career, but not since 2010-11.
Of those six campaigns:
- five seasons resulted in a shooting percentage of greater than 10 percent
- three seasons saw Ovechkin lead the NHL in goals per game
- two seasons ended with Ovechkin leading the league in goals
So, his increased shooting is a good sign, but his shooting percentage is not. Alex Ovechkin is currently shooting at 6.8 percent. If that number holds, it would be the worst of his career and only his second time under 10 percent over a whole season.
If Ovechkin can bring his shooting percentage closer to or even beyond 10 percent, it will bode well for the Washington Capitals and their captain.
4. Crash the Net
Alex Ovechkin is a big body and he has a nose for the goal.
What better way to utilize these two attributes than to create traffic in front of the net?
Ovechkin is a sniper, so he does not often set screens, harass goaltenders or look for rebounds. However, he is actually quite good at this role.
His big frame is a perfect distraction to opposing goalies and proves difficult for defenders to remove from in front of the net.
Plus, Ovechkin has shown the ability keep his cool while taking a defender's abuse as they try to forcibly remove him from the crease. This quality allows Ovechkin to stay focused on the task at hand while also drawing penalties for cross-checking and the like.
At this point, neither Alex Ovechkin nor the Washington Capitals can afford to be selective about how Ovechkin creates goals.
3. Pass the Puck
Alex Ovechkin gets paid to score goals.
He has racked up a bunch of assists in his career too, though, totaling at least 40 assists in six seasons and at least 50 in four.
But during the 2011-12 season, Ovechkin's assist numbers took a hard hit along with his goals. While he registered the second-lowest goal total of his career last season, he also amassed his lowest ever assist total. Not surprisingly, this amounted to the fewest points Ovechkin has put up in his first seven years in the NHL.
If he continues to struggle scoring goals, then he needs to concentrate on setting up his teammates to create goal scoring opportunities. Points are what matter, whether Ovie scores the goal or records a helper.
2. Be More Vocal
Alex Ovechkin is the captain of the Washington Capitals, but he is not always the team's most vocal leader. That title typically goes to Brooks Laich, and recently Troy Brouwer.
Just last week, however, there were two instances that illustrated that perhaps Alex Ovechkin is becoming more vocal.
After an ugly 5-2 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on February 7, Troy Brouwer noted to Scott Burnside of ESPN that the Caps were not mentally prepared to play. Alex Ovechkin concurred, adding, "I agree. Yeah, no emotions. Nothing."
That was a good start. After that same game, the Caps held a players-only meeting. It seems to have worked, at least in the short term. Alex Ovechkin talked to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post following the Capitals' dominating performance against the Florida Panthers on February 9:
I think the time right now we just have to turn around. And that kind of game we need. Everybody was so focused today, like, we have a meeting for the guys and we just said, like, ‘Be focused, bring energy and do what you have to do best.’ It works and it starts with our goaltending and it starts with “D” and the forwards.
Of course, no one knows for sure who called this players-only meeting. One would like to think that, as the team captain, it was Alex Ovechkin who orchestrated the meeting to clear the air.
In becoming a more vocal leader, Alex Ovechkin would not only call the players-only meetings in the future, but everyone would know that he did.
That is what a captain does.
1. Drop the Gloves
Actions speak louder than words.
As a captain, if Alex Ovechkin is unable to inspire his troops with his words, then he must take matters into his own hands.
Or rather, his fists.
This strategy has worked in the past. On December 12, 2010, the Washington Capitals played the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Midway through the second period, with the Capitals already trailing 4-0, the Rangers attempted to clear their zone after Washington hit the post twice in the same sequence.
Alex Ovechkin laid a hard—but clean—hip check on New York defender Dan Girardi, who was caught off-guard by the hit and went down in a heap.
Girardi's teammate, Brandon Dubinsky, took exception to the hit and approached Ovechkin. The Capitals' captain immediately dropped his gloves and engaged Dubinsky. The two fought an entertaining but short bout before falling to the ice.
But prior to letting the referees escort him to the penalty box, Ovechkin skated just past center ice and yelled at his teammates while waving his arms, imploring them to battle.
Ovechkin's actions may have actually inspired his teammates. The 2010-11 Capitals went on to lose that game 7-0, which was their fifth straight loss. They lost the next two games as well, but both by only one goal—the first in a shootout and the second after trailing by three goals to start the game.
The Caps would then catch fire, winning five of the next six games, including the 2011 Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field. Washington would finish the season with a 48-23-11 record and 107 points, good for the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
Plus, they never had a losing streak of longer than three games once that seven-game streak was snapped in December.
Perhaps the Washington Capitals could use similar inspiration right now.