So we don’t foresee this as being as long-term thing

  • Im going to write in defence of Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin, if only because there have been some recent attacks and, while I can certainly live with them being directed at Ovechkin, the analytical process ought to be better, particularly if its going to be a hit piece on the leagues leading goal-scorer. Kenneth Acker Jersey . Yes, Im writing to defend a player that is on pace for a 59-goal season, when the second-best goal-scorer in the NHL this season, Torontos Phil Kessel, is on pace for 43. Naturally, I didnt think that Ovechkin would be a player that needed much defending, but hes taken some hits lately. Im going to largely ignore his contributions on the power play because its not in any dispute that Ovechkin is great with the man advantage and can make a difference even when he doesnt score. On one side of the discussion, we have the Toronto Star, with their Department of Hockey Analytics, and while there are plenty of flaws in Ovechkins game, they somehow determined that his goals-for/against percentage was the way to illustrate the problem. Never mind that goals for/against percentage is essentially measuring plus-minus. Ill get to that in a moment but, first, also peruse the Hockey News piece by Ken Campbell who, after Ovechkin was minus-5 against Columbus, decided that Ovechkin has to decide what kind of player he is. After all, Ovechkin was minus-17 on the season after that game. Whats odd about using plus-minus to denigrate Ovechkins contributions is that anyone doing serious analytical work in hockey has been against using plus-minus because it involves so many factors beyond an individual players control (not least of which are the contributions of nine other skaters and two goaltenders when the game is 5-on-5) and, generally, involves small samples because goals are relatively rare events. Its funny to find myself in this position, because I can be a bit of an apologist for plus-minus. You spend enough time around the game and that thinking can be pretty common, and when the sample is large enough, you can get a pretty decent list of players at both ends of the spectrum. (For example, heres the list of players with the best cumulative plus-minus since 2000, and here are the worst.) But, Ive at least learned that there are many other factors that go into whether a player is a plus or minus player, and they must be considered if youre going to attempt to pass judgment on a single season or, especially, a portion of a season. So, lets take a look at some factors that are at play to make Alex Ovechkin a minus-17. First off, the shooting percentage of others on the ice with Ovechkin at 5-on-5 is ridiculously low. His 6.3% is only ahead of fourth-liners Aaron Volpatti and Jay Beagle among Capitals forwards. The suggestion could be made -- and of course it has been -- that Ovechkin isnt making those around him better, but here are the 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentages when Ovechkin has been on the ice for the past five seasons: 10.36%, 8.62%, 8.05%, 11.76%, 9.09%. Youre really going to have to dig for reasons, other than poor luck and ineffective shooters, to explain even-strength shooting effectiveness declining by 40% over last season, especially when Ovechkin himself is shooting 10.6% (18 goals, 170 shots) at 5-on-5. Taking away Ovechkins 18 goals on 170 shots, leaves the other Capitals to score eight goals on 242 shots (3.3%) with Ovechkin on the ice. Marcus Johansson, his most common left winger, has one goal on 51 shots. This undeniably effects plus-minus, right? Of course it does. Give Ovechkin an average on-ice shooting percentage (say, 8%) and that is a difference of about seven goals. At the other end of the rink, Ovechkin is getting burned with a .909 save percentage at 5-on-5. Naturally, the argument will be that Ovechkins defensive play is what leads to that low percentage. Keep in mind, that percentage is well below career norms for him (.922 over the past five seasons, including this one) and ranks near the bottom on the Capitals roster. Use that typical save percentage, on 439 shots against, and that becomes a difference of 5-6 goals. So, why not take a look at where the shots are coming from with Ovechkin on the ice? According to Some Kind of Ninjas Shot Tracker, shots against the Capitals with Ovechkin on the ice at even strength, come from an average distance of 34.5 feet. In the previous five seasons, it has been 34.2, 36.6, 35.8, 34.6 and 35.9 feet on average. There can be an argument made, based on those average shot distances, that Ovechkins most effective defensive performances were in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 (the Dale Hunter season), but there really isnt a huge difference; goaltenders arent suddenly flummoxed by 34-foot shots when 36-footers are easy pickings. On top of that, best of luck trying to identify those particular seasons as anything close to Ovechkins best. Why? Because he scored 70 goals and 150 points in 157 games over those two seasons, producing the two lowest point scoring rates of his career. Yes, even lower than this season, when virtually no one else puts the puck in the net with him on the ice. Of course Ovechkin is not a defensive whiz, but that shouldnt stand as an indictment any more than it has for elite offensive players throughout the history of the game. Seriously, take a look at the Top 10 goal-scorers in the league, none of whom put the puck in the net like Ovechkin, and identify the ones that are notably strong backcheckers. Some are: Joe Pavelski, Alexander Steen, Patrick Sharp, but theres no reason to believe that right wingers Kessel or Corey Perry or Patrick Kane are doing brilliant work in the defensive end. Heres the thing: theyre all great players! Part of the trouble for Ovechkin is that the Capitals havent been able to win in the postseason, so he gets painted with the brush of failure for a whole host of team shortcomings. Thats what comes with being a superstar. This Capitals team is flawed. They rank in the bottom third of the league in Fenwick Close (measuring shot attempts, not including blocks, at even strength, with the score close), which is a good indication of team puck possession, yet Ovechkin has relatively solid possession numbers. If you want to break down a players overall contribution, and feel that you must use one statistic in order to do so (better yet, dont), then at least reduce the impact of others on the ice and look at the possession stats, because it wont matter that linemates arent finishing or that, for whatever reason, goaltenders arent stopping the puck. Shooting and save percentages fluctuate and while they affect perception -- just ask Tyler Bozak -- they dont get to the bottom of a players on-ice contribution, and so it is with Ovechkin this year, who is having a fine season, no matter what his plus-minus says. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Derrick Johnson Jersey . Vincent Lamar Carter is no longer the lean, athletic dynamo who dazzled Raptors fans with eye-popping dunks that posterized even the leagues best defenders. Dee Ford Jersey . Garcia had eight birdies overall to go with a lone bogey on the fourth to move to an 18-under total of 198 at the Asian Tour event. "I was able to hit some really nice shots and then was able to roll two or three really good putts in and it was nice to be able to finish birdie, birdie on this difficult finishing stretch," Garcia said.TORONTO – The Maple Leafs hit rock bottom two weeks ago. They haven’t lost a game in regulation since. Behind a scorching offence that struck for five more goals, and 35 saves from Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs won for the fourth time in five games Tuesday (4-0-1), edging off the defensively-challenged Stars in a wild affair at the ACC. Yielding 38 shots themselves in victory, this was not the kind of performance they’d been proud of recently, a fact stressed by Randy Carlyle in his post-game address with players afterward. “I just said ‘We’re going to take the two points, but we can’t be happy with the sloppiness in which we played’,” said Carlyle after the 5-3 victory. “‘Lets be realistic and let’s be honest with ourselves that we have to come to work [Wednesday] to improve on that because we cannot continue to play that style of game and think we’re going to have success.’” It was the second straight game in which the Leafs have allowed more than 35 shots after holding opponents to less than 30 in the three before that. They were sloppier on this night, more prone to individual works, less focused on their defensive pursuits, and more like the flawed team of recent seasons. “I thought tonight was probably our worst game I’d say in the stretch that we’ve had [recently],” said Bernier. “But when you score that many goals it’s hard mentally to stay sharp and play defensively.” Scoring five for the eighth time already this season, the Leafs have managed 23 goals during the five-game run, that offence coming from 12 different sources, only one of whom being Phil Kessel. They were opportunistic in the run-and-gun show against the Stars – the worst defensive team in hockey – capitalizing on turnovers and easy rebounds, though prone to giving up more than a few themselves. Newly united with Leo Komarov sidelined (more on that below), Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Mike Santorelli combined for three of the five goals. It was two Tuesdays ago at the ACC that the same group hit their low point. That night the Leafs were pummeled for nine goals by Nashville, hammered for six three days earlier in Buffalo. Carlyle’s job security was questioned. And times were as tense as could be imagined in the second month of the season. It became painfully evident to all involved that change was needed in some form. “Well I think sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in anything,” Leafs assistant Steve Spott said Monday. “We hit rock bottom. No one can deny that game in Buffalo and our home game here against Nashville were probably as low as we can get – let’s hope anyways.” And after hitting that low point, change was embraced, the coaching staff given a “full reset” in its demands from the group. “It [allowed] us to now go into that dressing room and demand how we have to play,” Spott said. Players and coaches alike adopted a mantra that hinged upon playing “the right way”, though that mindset drifted in the back half of Saturday’s game against Washington and again Tuesday versus Dallas. All of which is just one more reminder to these Leafs of how quickly results can change if they stray from structure, a lesson they were forced to learn in those two embarrassing losses last month. Lupul, who scored a pair in the win, stressed such caution afterward. “We’ve still got plenty to work on,” he said. “Things are headed in the right direction, but we know what can happen if we get complacent.” Five Points 1. Dry Spell Over The first real quiet spell of Phil Kessel’s season ended Tuesday. Kessel broke a string of five straight games without a goal, also scoring for the first time in 10 games on the power-play. Carlyle called that power-play Kessel’s “bread and butter” and noted just how differently teams were defending him recently. The Leafs head coach observed how the opposition was “squeezing” the 27-year-old in his customary spot on the left half-wall, preventing him from rolling out and shooting the puck. “So if you noticed he’s not scored, but his assist totals have went up in those areas,” Carlyle said. “He has to make some adjustments of maybe rolling up a little higher. And with the addition of Kadri [on the right point] it becomes more of a two-dimensional power-play where we can work both sides of the ice. We hope that frees up some space for Phil.” The Stars cut down his options with two attackers often on this night, but when they let up even slightly Kessel found an opening. He fired a quick shot on a second period power-play, beating Kari Lehtonen with the help of a screen from James van Riemsdyk. “He’s going to get his goals,” said Tyler Bozak, who also scored for the sixth time in four games. “He hasn’t been happy with the way it’s been going for him lately, but I’m sure he’s going to start streaking here pretty soon and put a pile of them in there.” In light of the adjustments against him, Kessel’s shot attempts on the power-play are down some from last season, but the extra attention paid to him hhas mostly created space for Bozak, who has six power-play goals already this season, matching a career-high. Marcus Allen Jersey. 2. Better on the Wing Playing to the right of Kadri in each of the past five games, Santorelli landed three helpers against the Stars. The 28-year-old started the year down the middle, but the Leafs moved him to the wing after Lupul went down with injury and believe he’s a better fit there moving forward. “What we found is that he’s a much better winger than a centre,” said Carlyle. “He’s much more comfortable. His work ethic is very noticeable on the wing. And I think that has been enlightening to everybody that he’s a much more dynamic player when he plays the wing versus centre.” Inked for one year at $1.5 million, Santorelli is proving a bargain. He’s already amassed 16 points in 24 games, tied for fifth on the Leafs in scoring. 3. Bernier Starts Like his team, Bernier has been victim to slow starts this season. In fact, the 26-year-old has given up nearly half of his goals this season in the opening period – 17 of 43 – sporting a modest .910 save percentage. He was perfect on Tuesday against the Stars, however, stopping all 15 shots he faced. Bernier was making his sixth straight start in goal. “We just think Bernie’s on a roll,” Carlyle said of the decision beforehand. It’s been more than two weeks since James Reimer’s last start, something the Leafs are obviously aware of while still preferring to ride what Carlyle dubbed “the hot hand” in Bernier. “We don’t want Reims to get too rusty, that’s for sure,” Carlyle said. “I’m sure he’s going to see the net.” More than half of Reimers starts this season have come on the back half of back-to-back sets. Torontos next such set isnt until next week. 4. Robidas/Holzer It was in the moments before his return to the NHL last week and Korbinian Holzer was predictably nervous. There to calm those nerves was 37-year-old Stephane Robidas, his partner on defence that night in Pittsburgh and a veteran of more than 900 NHL games. Holzer says Robidas helped settle him down ahead of what proved to be a standout night against the Penguins. The performance drew positive reviews from Carlyle, who opted to move the 26-year-old higher in the lineup three nights later against Washington, onto the team’s second pairing with Jake Gardiner. “He earned the opportunity to move up, simple as that,” said Carlyle. “I thought he was outstanding in his first game. He played the way we envisioned him [playing] and now he’s got to maintain that consistently.” Holzer was overwhelmed in his first go-around with the Leafs in 2013, but with an added year of experience and the recent birth of his first child – daughter, Emily – he’s admittedly more settled in round two. He’s long been a fan of Robidas too. Holzer remembers watching the longtime Star play with the Frankfurt Lions during the first NHL lockout in 2004. Just a teenager then but an avid watcher of Germany’s top league, Holzer recalls Robidas being the best player on the ice; he compiled 15 goals and 47 points in 51 games. 5. Symptoms Clipped by Alex Ovechkin over the weekend, Komarov sat out Tuesday’s game. He underwent league protocol for a concussion following the Saturday night game against Washington, though Carlyle couldn’t say for certain whether he passed that testing nor whether he had a concussion. “I don’t know what that test is anymore,” he said. “I’ve heard so many frickin’ explanations for ‘test this, test that, ride the bike here, jump up and down on one foot’, I don’t know what that test is anymore. It just seems that there’s a protocol that when the player has symptoms then there’s a time-frame that he has to be symptom-free and we’re working on that now.” Komarov didnt feel well after the hit from Ovechkin, but those symptoms subsided, according to Carlyle. The 27-year-old even managed to work out on Tuesday morning. “It’s not like he’s in there lying on the bed doing nothing, he’s active,” Carlyle said. “So we don’t foresee this as being as long-term thing, but we don’t control that.” Stats-Pack 4-games – Point streak for Mike Santorelli, who has seven assists in that span. 6 – Goals in the past four games for Tyler Bozak. 10-0-0 – Leafs record when scoring first this season. 23 – Goals scored by the Leafs in the past five games. 1 – Power-play point for Nazem Kadri on Tuesday, his first this season. 13 – Even-strength points for Kadri and Santorelli, tied with Komarov for second-most on the Leafs this season. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-7 Season: 20.6% PK: 5-5 Season: 84.5% Quote of the Night “I don’t know what that test is anymore. I’ve heard so many frickin’ explanations for ‘test this, test that, ride the bike here, jump up and down on one foot’ I don’t know what that test is anymore.” -Randy Carlyle, questioned on whether Leo Komarov passed concussion tests. Up Next The Leafs host the Devils on Thursday night. Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys China Cheap Jerseys From China Cheap NFL Jerseys Authentic Wholesale Jerseys China Cheap NFL Jerseys China NFL Cheap Jerseys ' ' '