Barry Trotz acknowledged Thursday that he’s concerned about the recent downturn in Alex Ovechkin’s goal production.
The Capitals’ captain has a team-best 14 goals this season—tied for 10th in the NHL entering Thursday’s games—but he’s got just two goals in the last 12 contests.
“Am I concerned?” Trotz said after practice. “Yeah, I have concern that his production is down because we need his production to win.”
At his current pace, Ovechkin would finish with 37 goals, or his lowest total in a full season since he scored 32 in 2010-11. He’s tallied 50 or more goals in each of the past three seasons and has claimed the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer four years running.
If he’s going to add a fifth straight Richard to his overflowing trophy case, though, he’s going to need to make up some ground over the final 51 games.
Entering Thursday’s games, Sidney Crosby (22 goals), David Pastrnak (19) and Patrik Laine (18) had a little cushion on the rest of the top scorers.
Of course, Ovechkin has throughout his career shown the ability to score goals in bunches. So catching up to Crosby and Co. can’t be ruled out.
If you recall, Ovechkin got hot in the second half of last season. Through 31 games a year ago, he had 17 goals and then went on a tear in his final 48 games, scoring 33 times. During that torrid stretch, Ovechkin amassed seven multiple goal performances, including a pair of hat tricks.
“His history will state that he will get on some hot streak here,” Trotz said. “And he’ll score some goals.”
“But,” the coach continued, “if we’re going to be successful, we got to have Ovi being productive. We need [Nicklas Backstrom] being productive. We need [Andre] Burakovsky being productive. Ovi carries high expectations by the fans, us, everybody to put up offensive numbers. The best way he can do that is with his line working together and finding ways to get open and the power play executing.”
So what’s the cause for the recent dip? Is it his linemates? Is it the fact that he’s skating an avearge of 18:46, which is roughly a minute and a half less than he’s received in recent years? A combination of all of those reasons?
That’s unclear, but Trotz said he's talked to Ovechkin and his other top forwards about working smarter without the puck in an effort to get it back quicker. Trotz also said he’d like to see Ovechkin put more shots on net. With 122, he’s on pace for 323, which would represent his lowest shot total in a full season in six years. In five of the last eight games, Ovechkin has mustered three or fewer shots on net, including just two in the Capitals’ 3-2 shootout loss in Philadelphia.
“Right now, he’s had a dry spell where he hasn’t gotten a lot of shots,” Trotz said. “Is that a little bit of him of him? A little bit of his linemates? Or how we’re going? He’s capable of going through a week where he gets 10 goals and we’ll go, ‘Yeah, everything’s fine.’”
“He’s dynamic,” Trotz added. “We need him to win. Plain and simple.”
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