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Cullen: Ovechkin Mired in Slump

Scott Cullen
11/24/2010 1:58:54 PM
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There are hundreds of players in the National Hockey League that wouldn't garner any attention by scoring three points in a six-game span, but Alexander Ovechkin isn't just any player.

For the last three years running, he's been the highest-ranked player in my NHL Player Rankings and was the prohibitive number one choice in fantasy drafts this season.

And now, he's in a slump.

(To be fair, Ovechkin remains the highest-ranked left winger in this season's Player Rankings, so it's not as though he's dropped off a cliff.)

Ovechkin has been indestructible through much of his six-year career, but I'm starting to wonder if he's maybe not quite 100%.

Since a win at the Rangers on November 9, Ovechkin played under 18 minutes in each of the next three games -- something that happened eight times all of last season and that included three games with misconducts (Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago) and another game that he left early due to injury (Columbus). 

Thus, in just four of the remaining 68 games in which he was healthy and available, Ovechkin played fewer than 18 minutes.

It happened in three consecutive games this year with nary a mention?  Maybe it was because Ovechkin had five points in those three games. 

Maybe it's because the Capitals earned five of six points in those games. 

Maybe it was merely a fluke and there's nothing more to be read into it -- an extra shift in any of those games and OV is over 18 minutes (maybe close to 19 depending on the shift) -- but when this seems to coincide with his current six-game slump (1 G, 2 A, minus-3, 17 SOG), maybe there is something not quite right with Ovechkin.

Even with his ice time back up to customary levels the last three games, the production hasn't been there and Ovechkin spent some of Monday's loss to New Jersey on a line with rookie Marcus Johansson and veteran grinder Matt Bradley, while Matt Hendricks skated alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin on the Capitals' top line. 

Again, maybe it was a shake-up that a coach tries when a team is getting drilled like the Capitals were on Monday, but how often is a player of Ovechkin's ilk effectively demoted to the third line

If Pittsburgh puts Sidney Crosby with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, he's not demoted to the third line, they're promoted to the first line.

Averaging a career-low 4.14 shots on goal per game, down from a career average of 5.44 prior to this season, something is hampering Ovechkin this season and whether it's a physical or mental issue, the Capitals aren't going to be the same offensive juggernaut until he gets back to the super-elite form he's established.

I mean, he's on pace for only 37 goals this season.  Can you imagine?!?!
 
BAILEY
The Islanders have demoted third-year LW Josh Bailey to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League, following a 13-game stretch in which he was held without a point and was minus-9.

Not so coincidentally, that 13-game span started right when Bailey returned to the lineup after missing a couple of games with a hip pointer.

Perhaps 21-year-old Bailey isn't ready to shoulder the load offensively for an NHL team, but isn't the Islanders roster chock full of players to whom that applies? 

Blake Comeau has three points in 16 games, Michael Grabner snapped a seven-game scoreless drought with a goal last game, John Tavares has three points and is minus-10 in the last 11 games.

Bailey doesn't require waivers to go to Bridgeport, so maybe that's what makes it easier for the Isles to send him down, it just seems a shame for a talented young player to be in such a position after making the lineup as a 19-year-old.

In keeper leagues that allow room to stash on the farm, you can be patient.  Otherwise, there are likely more desirable options for the time being.

KARLSSON
Senators D Erik Karlsson was a healthy scratch in Ottawa's Monday night win over the Kings and is expected to be scratched again tonight against Dallas.

Karlsson, 20, has 11 points and a minus-5 rating in 20 games.  While he's no defensive treasure (minus-6 in the last five games), he has rare puck-moving ability and should find his way back into the lineup soon enough.

From www.behindthenet.ca, Senators blueline mainstays Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba are decidedly worse in 5-on-5 goal differential per 60 minutes than Karlsson, so it's not like he's the glaring weak link on the back end.

As a young player, Karlsson may handle this treatment better than a veteran that has been in the league for a decade, but he's also too talented to continue spending time in the press box.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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