Blog Entry

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:37 pm

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: the "slow" starts for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Washington's Alex Ovechkin

By: Adam Gretz

In news that is sure to calm the chaos surrounding the Vancouver Canucks and their starting goaltender, Roberto Luongo, the three-time All-Star was pulled during the second period of their 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night after surrounding three goals on 14 shots. Panic!

Luongo, of course, has been under intense scrutiny, as he always seems to be in Vancouver, and it's reached the point that the local press is writing editorials proposing trades, much to the chagrin of general manager Mike Gillis. Imagine what it would be like if this team wasn't one win away from owning the Stanley Cup just a few months ago.

There is no way to deny that it's been a bad month for Luongo, as his .868 save percentage through his first six starts is near the bottom of the NHL. But he's not going to stay this bad, and it shouldn't be a surprise that he's struggled in the month of October. Throughout his career Luongo has been a slow starter (and at times slow finisher) and plays lights out during the months in between. He's basically a goaltending bell curve.

Let's take a look at his save percentages, by month, for his career and the past few seasons.

Roberto Luongo: Month-by-Month
Month Career 2010-11 2009-10 2008-09 2007-08
October .914 .907 .902 .902 .903
November .916 .914 .921 .959 .940
December .923 .922 .932 Injured .942
January .921 .947 .922 .876 .908
February .923 .923 .915 .914 .919
March .920 .942 .902 .930 .909
April .904 .961 .867 .918 .820

If you're of the opinion that Luongo can't win when it counts, maybe his decreased production in April, which has carried over to the playoffs at various times in recent years, simply reinforces that belief. But a slow start is nothing new. And while this one has been worse than some of his recent ones, he's eventually going to rebound. Over the past six years Luongo has been one of the best goaltenders in the league when it comes to even-strength save percentage, and even finished second in two of the past three years. He didn't suddenly lose that ability. At least not yet. He's going to play better, so let's calm down with the trade talk and suggestions of starting Cory Schneider, Vancouver, because it's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen.

Ovechkin's start not unlike his previous starts … sort of

Speaking of great players that are off to "slow" starts, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has three goals and four assists through his first seven games of the season. For most players, a point-per-game average at any point of the season is a cause for praise and celebration; for a former scoring champion and two-time MVP it's started conversation as to whether or not we've already seen his best days as an NHL scorer.

(Actually, that may not be entirely out of the question at this point, as most players see their peak performance come somewhere around the age of 25 or 26. Of course, that doesn't mean Ovechkin is destined to become an average player or that his career is going to suddenly fall off a cliff. He's still going to be one of the best and most dominant players in the NHL and a force to reckon with everytime he steps on the ice -- he just may not score 65 goals again.) 

But what about his start to this season? Is three goals and four assists through seven games all that out of the ordinary for Ovechkin? No. No it's not. Have a look.

Alex Ovechkin: Production Through Seven Games
Year Goals Points Shots
2011-12 3 7 21
2010-11 4 8 35
2009-10 7 14 55
2008-09 2 4 37
2007-08 4 6 36
2006-07 4 7 46
2005-06 4 8 28

The biggest difference, obviously, is that his shots on goal are not only way down, but are also the lowest they've ever been through this many games, and that should be a bit of a concern.

The easy suggestion is to simply shoot more(!) but that's easier said than done. Everybody wants to get more shots on goal, whether you're a former 60-goal scorer or a third-line grinder. But there's another team out there with highly paid professionals doing their best to prevent that from happening. Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post wrote about Ovechkin's start last week and pointed out how the Capitals are trying --and have been trying -- to get him to become less predictable on the attack, and how other teams have been defending his usual rush of cutting to the high slot.

Maybe "the book" is out on him, and maybe he hasn't adjusted to it yet, but this slow start looks pretty similar to every other start he's had throughout his career, at least as far as his production is concerned, even with the fewer shots on goal (something that's been on the decline in recent years, as Neil Greenberg recently pointed out). Whether or not that's sustainable over the course of the season remains to be seen.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Oct 26, 2006
Posted on: October 29, 2011 5:40 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

OVIE, Is following what the Coach wants done & trying to play (D)
He seems UNHAPPY playing the system, But continues to do it.
If they Don't do well in the PLAYOFFS this year, (Barbque face) will be gone & they will get back to more of an OFFENCE
minded game. As a PENS fan I hope he stays as is. He's still a GREAT TALENT.

Since: Dec 8, 2006
Posted on: October 28, 2011 6:39 am

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

What a waste of an article

Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: October 27, 2011 9:03 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

Like "crusader" mentioned, OV's minutes are down. This is because all four lines are playing well for the Caps and Boudreau is happy to play him less. Many players are contributing with the scoring therefore Boudreau doesn't need to wear him out early in the season. Minutes are down therefore shots are down therefore scoring is down....I'm certainly happy with the season so far.

Since: Sep 26, 2011
Posted on: October 27, 2011 5:37 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

Ovie is OVR8D!!!

Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: October 27, 2011 1:36 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

Luo Is killing my fantasy pool this year start winning or vancouver will trade u

Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: October 27, 2011 12:08 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

As you can see, Ovie starts slowly & ends up playing like he should.  Also, the caps are 7-0-0 right now, so even if Ovie hadn't even put a shot on goal I would be fine with it

Since: Feb 22, 2008
Posted on: October 27, 2011 8:17 am

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

Ovechkin is playing more than 2 minutes per game less than last year. Additionally, while he may be taking less shots, he is picking his spots better as his 14.3% scoring rate is the second highest of his career and almost 6% better than last season.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: October 26, 2011 11:40 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

I give it a month before there's a CBS article out about how Ovechkin will once again score 40 goals.  I love when people start worrying this early in the season.  It's 82 games long for a reason folks, give it time.

Since: Jan 6, 2009
Posted on: October 26, 2011 11:15 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

With repect to Ovechkin, you have to look at his ice time, which is down considerably. This years Caps have four strong lines which have all contributed, something they have not had in recent years. They have been ahead in many of their first seven games and haven't needed to double and triple shift him in the third period. His goals and points will come. 

Since: Apr 11, 2008
Posted on: October 26, 2011 8:16 pm

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

Despite Ovie's slow start the Caps are doing just fine.  If he starts scoring more then watch out!  Of course, nothing matters for the Caps unless they can finally make some hay in the playoffs.  Here's hoping...

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