The Great 8's Downfall: Why Alex Ovechkin'S NHL Performance Is on the Decline

Andy KulaszewskiContributor IIAugust 18, 2011

WASHINGTON - MARCH 08:  Pittsburgh Penguins players look on as Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals covers his face after being high sticked in the face during the second period of the game on March 8, 2006 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We all know Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, love him or hate him. Personally, I am a huge fan of the heart and love he brings to the game. The passion Mr. Ovechkin shows when he scores a goal is undoubtedly the most outlandish of any NHL player, sometimes to the point of annoyance. But regardless, when Ovie scores a goal, you can tell he is the happiest person on the planet in that moment, and absolutely lives for it.

There is so much speculation right now around the league about why Alex Ovechkin's numbers have declined last year. After all, since his 65 goal performance in 2008, we have seen his goal production fall to 56, 50, and finally to 32 in the past three years. His assist number has stayed relatively in the same ballpark because regardless of goals, the guy can still play some incredible hockey and is still going to be involved in many goals, even if he isn't the one scoring it.

But if you watch Alex Ovechkin play, you begin to notice that he only makes one move when coming up the ice. He comes up his wing up the left side of the ice, and when a D-man is in front of him, he gets anywhere between the blue line and the faceoff dot, makes one cut towards the center of the ice, and fires a snapshot (which is a laser).  He does this while using the defenseman as a screen. For his first two or three years in the game, this move worked. It was effective because most players have not used it and hadn't yet realized that they need to play the body earlier on Ovie, so he can't get a shot off. The accuracy and velocity of his shot paired with the defense in the direct line of fire made it nearly impossible for goalies to see, and stop it.

However, players are beginning to realize that this is what Ovechkin does.  Sure he has some tricks up his sleeve in different situations, but whenever you see him cut up the left side of the ice, this is what he'll try to do, almost guaranteed. Players see this and make it a point to take the body earlier or just get the blade of their stick in the way of his, and the puck deflects up and out of the way. Unlike players such as Pavel Datsyuk who have a limitless amount of moves to utilize, Ovechkin seems to pull this move on every rush.

Now don't take this the wrong way, we all know Ovie shoots more than anyone in the league and when he does get that shot off, it's dangerous.  He will continue to put pucks past goaltenders for a long time.   However, in my own opinion, Ovechkin's numbers have not declined because his game has gotten more defensive, or because the Washington Capitals have tried to alter their game to less offense and more defense. It is simply because defensemen learn quick, and after watching Ovie score this goal so many times, they are reacting accordingly and taking that play away from him.  So unless he can head back to the drawing board and come out with another move that isn't as well known, he'll continue to cut to the center and watch his shot launch off of the D's stick and out of play.

I know this article is going to get some hate.  However, I still love Ovie and think he is one of the best players the NHL has seen.  He will continue to score, but I attribute his fall in goals to this.