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Alex Ovechkin leading Capitals second-half surge

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals and the Washington Capitals are winning games. It's so simple. (USATSI)
Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals and the Washington Capitals are winning games. It's so simple. (USATSI)

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This goes without saying, of course, but Alex Ovechkin is pretty important to the success of the Washington Capitals. Shocking news, I know. But this graph just helps illustrate it.

What we're looking at here is Ovechkin's cummulative shots per game (top), goals per game (middle) and the Capitals' team points percentage (bottom) for 2013. I don't want to oversimplify it (though I probably am), but when Alex Ovechkin is getting shots on goal, he's scoring goals. When he's scoring goals, the Capitals are winning games.

Pretty simple, yes?

Ovechkin

I'm noticing a trend.

As of Friday, the Capitals are in first place in the Southeast Division, and, as I mentioned on Thursday night after their shootout win against the Islanders, a lot of that is due to the resurgence of Ovechkin (with a little help from the rest of the Southeast Division being absolutely terrible). Maybe it took him awhile to get adjusted to life under Adam Oates and playing on the right side. Or maybe it's helping that he's no longer being saddled with third-and fourth-liners as linemates like he was at times earlier in the season. No matter the reason, he's back to being a goal-scoring machine, and the Capitals are winning games again.

After the Capitals' first 10 games, they were sitting at the bottom of the conference with a 2-7-1 record, while Ovechkin had just two goals and was averaging a career-low 3.7 shots per game. Since then, Washington is 16-10-1 and Ovechkin's shots and goal numbers have rocketed up to the top of the league.

He's not generating shots at the same ridiculous pace he was earlier in his career, but his current average of 4.43 per game is by far the best in the league (among players with a mininum of 20 games played). Winnipeg's Evander Kane is the only other player in the league averaging even four shots per game.

That 4.43 average is still the second lowest total of his career, which speaks to how incredibly dominant he was between 2006 and 2010.

If he maintains that same shots average over the Capitals' remaining 11 games and keeps shooting at his career average of 12 percent, that's another five or six goals onto his 2013 total and what should be a top-five finish in the NHL (for a second year in a row). Those same averages over a full 82-game season would come out to 44 goals, a number that only three players (Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, and Corey Perry) have reached over the past two full seasons.

He's not the Ovechkin we used to know, but he's still pretty darn good.

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