Sunday, June 20, 2021

Washington Capitals: 2020-2021 By the Tens -- Forwards: T.J. Oshie

T.J. Oshie

“The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul.”
― Mark Twain

Wasn’t this about the time T.J. Oshie was supposed to be slowing down, when his contract became a liability in the context of diminishing production?  Well, based on his results in 2020-2021, we will have to wait at least another season on that.  Playing 53 of 56 games, Oshie posted the second highest goals-per-game of his career (0.42; he had 0.49 with the Caps in 2016-2017), the second highest points-per-game of his career (0.81; he had 0.82 in 2016-2017), and the second highest shooting percentage of his career (20.8; he had a league leading 23.1 in 2016-2017). He did it while averaging just 18:04 in ice time per game, his second lowest of his career with the Caps and third lowest of his career overall, thus making him a rather efficient offensive player in the larger scheme of things.

Fearless’ Take… Looking at his ten-game splits, one wonders what Oshie’s numbers might have looked like if there was a full 82-game season.  There were the two goals in the first split, followed by three, then two.  But in the last three splits, those goal totals were five, six, and four, and it was in that last split (a short one, given the 56-game season) that Oshie had a hat trick, giving him three multi-goal games in his last 13 games of the season.  He finished the season with 15 goals in his last 21 games after a difficult stretch in which he had only three in 16 games.  There is also a bit of a pleasant oddity in his time on ice.  Often it seems that offensive players with high ice times end up on the losing side of the ledger owing to their getting more time in games in which their team trails, but the Caps were 8-2-3 in the 13 games in which Oshie skated more than 20 minutes. 

Cheerless’ Take… The Caps were 10-5-2 (.647 points percentage) when Oshie scored one or more goals, 24-9-3 (.708) when he was shut out on goals.  Huh…imagine that.  Oh, and cuz, on that ice time thing, the Caps were 11-0-0 in games in which Oshie skated less than 16 minutes.

Odd Oshie Fact… In six seasons with the Caps, T.J. Oshie averaged less than 0.25 goals per game only once (0.24 in 2017-2018).  In seven seasons with St. Louis, he averaged more than 0.25 goals per game only once (0.27 in 2013-2014).

Odd Oshie Fact II… Since 2005-2006, when the NHL began capturing such statistics, Oshie is one of only six players to have recorded more than 600 takeaways and fewer than 400 giveaways.  

Odd Oshie Fact III… Since arriving in Washington in 2014-2015, Oshie has dealt in round numbers – 150 goals, 150 assists, 300 points.

Game to Remember… May 5, 2021 vs. New York Rangers.  How many times will a player record a hat trick and have none of the goals come at 5-on-5?  Well, it happened to T.j. Oshie in a game against the New York Rangers as the regular season was coming to its conclusion, and the Caps were wrapping up the road portion of their season.  After a scoreless first period, Oshie got the Caps on the board just 12 seconds into the second period.  Taking a long cross ice pass from Brenden Dillon at the Rangers’ blue line, he skated down the right wing and snapped a shot past goalie Alexandar Georgiev with just two seconds remaining in a Caps power play.  Eight minutes later, with the Caps on another man advantage, Oshie struck again.  Georgiev made a save on an initial shot from the top of the offensive zone by Dmitry Orlov, but he left a juicy rebound that Oshie was too happy to gobble up, swatting it from the edge of the right wing circle past Georgiev to make it a 2-0 game.  The teams exchanged goals after that, leaving the Caps with a 3-1 lead to protect as the third period was winding down.  With the Rangers having pulled Georgiev for an extra attacker in the last two minutes, Oshie took a feed from Carl Hagelin and fired a shot from just inside his own blue line that found the net to complete the hat trick a day after the passing of his father, the importance of the moment not lost on his teammates.

Game to Forget… February 4, 2021 vs. New York Rangers.  It was the same ice sheet on which Oshie had his most memorable moment of the season that he had one that he and the Caps might like to forget.  It was one of those games that the Caps never seemed to be in, allowing a goal less than two minutes into the game, falling behind by a 2-0 margin mid-way through the second period, and unable to generate much offense or enthusiasm despite an Alex Ovechkin goal mid-way through the third that got the Caps within a goal.  New York added an empty net goal for a 4-2 win.  In the loss, Oshie was on ice for three of the Rangers’ four goals, recorded only one shot attempt, finished with no points, and posted a minus-3 rating, his worst of the season.

Postseason… Oshie tied for the team lead in points, posting four (1-3-4) in the five-game loss to Boston in the opening round.  But on the other hand, he was also on ice for five goals scored by the Bruins at even strength, tied for most on the team, and he had a minus-2 goal differential at even strength.  On the other other hand, he had five takeaways (most on the team) and was plus-2 in takeaways-to-giveaways.

Looking ahead… T.J. Oshie has three years remaining on an eight-year/$46.0 million contract and has been mentioned as a favorite to be selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft to be held later this summer.  The buzz on Oshie being at or near the top of the selection list among Capitals is largely a product of related factors – age (he will turn 35 in December), a history of injuries, and a style of play that places great strain on his body, bringing into question whether the last years of his contract would be a liability for the salary cap-strained Capitals.  That he would play in all 69 games of the COVID-shortened 2019-2020 season and all but three games of this past season seems to have cooled the discussion a bit, but it remains a matter to watch as the summer wears on.

In the end…

If Nicklas Backstrom is the brains of the Capitals operation, and Alex Ovechkin is the brawn who wills pucks into the net, T.J. Oshie is the heart and soul, who plays bigger than his listed size (5’11”/196), goes into the tough areas for scoring and digging out pucks, and displays a work ethic second to none.  It was a difficult season for Oshie on a personal level, but on the ice another season where he was one of the most effective skaters.  The combination serves to further cement his place as a special player in Caps history deserving of the affection Capitals Nation has for him.

Grade: A-

Photo: Nick Wass/AP