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Ovechkin shooting less, scoring less

by John Kreiser

Has the NHL caught up with Alex Ovechkin?

Ovi has kept goaltenders busy from the day he entered the NHL -- he scored twice and had five shots on goal in his debut, Oct. 5, 2005. Washington's star has been firing away ever since, leading the NHL in shots on goal in each of his first six seasons.

But after scoring at least 46 goals in each of his first five seasons, Ovi's goal total (32), shots on goal (367) and shooting percentage (8.7) all hit career lows in 2010-11. While his shooting percentage has rebounded somewhat this season -- at 11.9 percent, he's exactly at his career average -- and his goal-scoring pace is about the same, his shot volume is headed for a serious decline.

Through the Caps' first 17 games this season, Ovechkin has just 59 shots on goal, by far his fewest at the same stage in any season -- and he's tied for 22nd in the NHL. His previous low through 17 games was the 75 he had last season; prior to that, he had at least 86, with a high of 98 in 2009-10.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 59 | +/-: -3
His 7 goals put him on a pace to score 34, up slightly from last season -- though his 68-point pace would be a career low. But he's also on a pace to take just 285 shots over a full season, 82 fewer than his previous low.

This also is the first time he's gone this far into the season without reaching double figures in shots at least once. The most shots he's had in a game was seven (he did it twice) -- and he didn't score in either of those games. The only statistic in which he's reached double figures in a game this season is hits: He had 11 of the 37 he's been credited with in last Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey -- a game in which he managed just two shots on goal while having eight blocked and missing the net on another.

Try, try again -- Not only is Ovechkin not getting is usual volume of shots on goal, but his shot attempts are also way down.

While leading the NHL in shots on goal in each season, Ovi also has topped the League in missed shots in each of the last four after finishing second in each of his first two seasons -- he had 159, nearly two per game, in 2010-11. But this season, he's missed the net only 30 times, fifth in the NHL. He also has had 38 shots blocked.

Ironically, Ovechkin's goals have come mainly on nights when he doesn't shoot a lot. Ovi has scored in five games, during which he's taken a combined total of just 16 shots. In the 12 games he hasn't scored, he's 0-for-43. None of his goals have come at the Verizon Center, but he's tied for the League lead with 7 road goals.

Firing blanks -- At least Ovechkin has turned on the red light this season. Colorado's Erik Johnson enters the weekend with the dubious honor of having the most shots on goal without scoring. Johnson has played in all 19 of the Avs' games and has yet to score despite being credited with 43 shots on goal, five more than Boston's Dennis Seidenberg, the next-busiest shooter among the non-scorers. Another Bruins defenseman, Joe Corvo, is 0-for-37.

Erik Johnson
Defense - COL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 9
SOG: 43 | +/-: -10
Johnson inherited the title of busiest shooter among the non-scorers when Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler scored his first of the season Thursday against Washington -- on his 44th shot of the season. Wheeler entered the night as the busiest non-scorer after Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban scored his first of the season Wednesday on his 52nd shot.

Good omen -- Want to know if the Winnipeg Jets are going to win? Check out whether Evander Kane gets a goal.

Kane scored twice Thursday as the Jets shot down the Washington Capitals 4-1 at the MTS Centre. It's the sixth game this season in which he's scored a goal (the second in which he's had two) -- and the Jets have won all six.

So what happens when he doesn't score? Winnipeg loses -- the Jets are 0-9-3 in those games.

The gang that can't shoot straight -- The Columbus Blue Jackets enter the weekend with the NHL's worst record, but not because they won't shoot the puck.

The Jackets dropped to 3-13-2 following Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss at Boston, despite outshooting the Bruins 31-27. It was the 12th time in 18 games this season Columbus has outshot the opposition, but the 10th time the Jackets have lost -- they fell to 2-8-2 when the Bruins outscored them 2-1 in the shootout.

Columbus seems to struggle even more when it dominates the play. The Jackets' 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday came despite a 45-24 advantage in shots -- marking the third time in as many games Columbus has lost despite outshooting the opposition by 20 or more shots. The Blue Jackets also are 0-3-0 when getting 40 or more shots on goal.

Saturday night regulars -- It's not the common occurrence it was in past decades, but the New York Rangers' visit to Montreal on Saturday falls under the category of "been there, done that."

When the Rangers step onto the ice at the Bell Centre, they'll be making their 303rd regular-season visit to Montreal -- and the 203rd to be played on a Saturday.
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