Alex Ovechkin has had arguably the most criticized 50-goal season in NHL history this year. Normally, 50 goals is a milestone that automatically puts you into the conversation for the league MVP. That’s not exactly the case for Ovechkin.
If you look at his stat line, the fact that he has 50 goals this year isn’t the first stat that jumps out at you. Ovechkin entered Tuesday night’s game with a whopping minus-35 rating, which is the number consistently brought up when his playing style is criticized. He’s first in goals and no one is close to catching him, but he’s also dead last in plus-minus.
Those who love him will say that he’s the most skilled goal scorer in the world, and it’s the Capitals’ lack of depth and sluggish team defense that cause such horrible plus-minus figures. Those who hate him claim that he is simply a power play specialist and will never play a style of game that will lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
Fact is, both are partially correct. Ovechkin is the best goal scorer in the game, but he isn’t even in the top-10 as far as best players are concerned.
There isn’t a more natural goal scorer in the NHL than Ovechkin, and he has the highlight reel to prove it. The fact that he has more than 50 power play goals in the last three seasons combined also helps explain what kind of offensive threat he is. Opposing teams know that the power play is designed to get him the puck, yet year after year Ovechkin produces. So far this season, Ovechkin has been at his best with the man advantage, tallying 23 power play goals.
Then there’s the other side of Ovechkin. If hockey were only played in the offensive end, Ovechkin would likely be ranked at the top of a “best players in the NHL” list. But obviously, it’s not and Ovechkin’s consistent lackluster attitude in the defensive zone has been very well documented.
It’s difficult to compare Ovechkin, a winger, to other superstars like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Ryan Getzlaf and Tyler Seguin because they all play center and have a much higher defensive responsibility, but even with 50 goals under his belt, it’s difficult to ignore the rest of his stat line when debating the game’s best.
It shouldn’t shock anyone that Ovechkin has 50 goals this season, but don’t look too far into it. He’s a special talent, but until he figures out how to be an elite player in both zones, it’s difficult to even put him in the conversation for who should be a contender for the NHL MVP.