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Shot charts tell a story for Ovi's exit, Sid's next round

by Bob Condor
OK, one more time with the Ovi vs. Sid thing for now.

As Alexander Ovechkin spoke to the media Friday for the last official time of the 2010 postseason, rival Sidney Crosby was preparing for Game 1 of Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference semifinal against the Montreal Canadiens (7 ET, Versus, CBC, RDS). That would be those same Canadiens who ousted Ovechkin and his Capitals teammates in a stirring 2-1 Game 7 victory on Wednesday.

Just how a No. 8 seed toppled the President's Trophy winners is a question still hovering like low storm clouds on the minds of hockey fans from D.C. to Montreal to Moscow. There are lots of theories out there--"Hot Goalie Strikes Again" is a pretty sound one--but a look at the regular-season shot charts comparing Ovechkin and Crosby (on this page) lends some objectivity to the debates.

The charts make some sense about why Ovechkin's Caps were foiled by goalie-hero Jaroslav Halak and why Habs players could block 41 in the Game 7 clincher. But, beware, Halak/Habs watchers, those same charts point to why Crosby and his more disciplined approach to shooting could put an end to the Montreal miracle run.

Here's what scouts tell their teams about Ovechkin: He scores on the rush, typically from the high slot. Don't expect him to wait long in the zone before he unloads that heavy slap shot or strong wrister. He also can get behind the defense for breakaways.

Crosby, those scouts will tell you, scores most of his goals down-low, patiently waiting for the pass or a play to develop. The Penguins captain also scores frequently on rebounds and deflections.

The shot charts provide cold, clear evidence. At least half of Ovechkin's shots are launched from the top of the faceoff circles or farther out. He gives new definition to "high slot."

Crosby, in contrast, rarely scores or even shoots from this range. You could draw a triangle connecting the two faceoff dots with the middle of the goal-line and capture, what, about 80 to 90 percent of Crosby's goal during the 2009-2010 regular season.

During Wednesday's Game 7 loss, Ovechkin didn't get many close-in opportunities of his total 10 shots on goal while the GameCenter shot chart (yes, you can find one for every NHL regular-season and playoffs game) shows lots of Ovi shots 40 to 55 feet from the net. Possessing an all-time quality slap shot or not, that extra distance allows a professional goalie more time to find the puck and stop the puck.

Don't expect Crosby to allow Halak or the Canadiens shot-blockers that sort of slack starting Friday night.

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