Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Russian Machine

We were doodling around on looking at some of the game reports that are available, and after a few minutes of that got to thinking about goals. Specifically, those scored by Alex Ovechkin this year. This is a player who eats up ice time in large chunks, and we were curious as to how deep into games and shifts he scores all those goals. What we found was rather interesting.

In the NFL, commentators often remark about running backs that they get stronger as the game goes on. Well, Ovechkin certainly gets more productive. Of the 36 goals he has scored this year, here is how they breakdown by period:

1st: 7
2nd: 11
3rd: 16
OT: 2

Those 18 goals he has in the third period and overtime are especially interesting. Obviously, there is the matter of his stepping up his game in its later stages. But more than that, there is the matter of when he scores them. We had to throw out the third period goal he scored against Detroit last weekend, because the reports did not have shift reports available for that game. But looking at the other 17 goals, they were scored an average of 49.7 seconds into his shift.

Let’s keep in mind that Ovechkin is second in the league among forwards in average time-per-shift (1:04). He’s expending a lot of energy in games, generally, but he has enough juice at the end to be scoring late into his shifts. Even taking the empty-net goals out of the mix (he has three), he is scoring goals on average 49.2 seconds into his third period shifts.

Overall, for the 34 goals we looked at (the two against Detroit not having shift data available), Ovechkin is scoring on average 50.8 seconds into his shift. To put that into perspective, 43 of 548 forwards dressing for games this year have higher average shift times overall. Only six of the top 20 goals scorers (23, with ties) have average overall shift times over that which it takes for Ovechkin to score.

Ovechkin also has had a fair share of “megashifts” that have resulted in goals. Of the 34 goals we looked at, 11 of them were scored more than 60 seconds into his shift, and five of them were scored more than 90 seconds into his shift (four of those were on power plays).

He also has a knack, not just for scoring goals late in games, but late in periods. Of his 34 goals scored in regulation, 14 of them have been scored in the last five minutes of a period. Ten have been scored in the last two minutes of a period, including the three empty netters he has (he can also strike quickly – nine of his goals in regulation have been scored in the first five minutes of a period, four in the first two minutes).

Despite his remarkable consistency in scoring, total points-wise, he (as do a lot of goal scorers) scores goals in bunches. He has 11 multi-goal games this year (including two multi-goal periods). He also has three different streaks of scoring goals in at least three consecutive game. His longest is a five-game streak in mid-November that came immediately after a nine-game streak without a goal. Since that nine-game streak without a goal, he has 34 goals in 39 games played. If he was to keep that pace going, he would finish the year with 62 goals.

We’re not suggesting that Ovechkin is the only goal warrior out there, but it’s probably a short list. Caps fans are no doubt happy the “Russian Machine” (never breaks) is doing it here in Washington.

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