Commentary

Early fluke performances litter NHL

Alex Ovechkin will score, and the New York Rangers will rebound from slow start

Updated: October 19, 2011, 1:37 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider
Alex OvechkinG Fiume/Getty ImagesAlex Ovechkin hasn't put the puck in the net much this season, but that shouldn't last long.

For pretty much any other player, one goal in five games would not be considered a poor start. For Alex Ovechkin, one of the favorites for the goal-scoring title at the start of the season, it's a little troubling. Even the goal he was given credit for was a fluky deflection that required a video review to determine that it went under the crossbar.

Ovechkin has never had fewer than two goals in the first five games of a season, and three teammates have more goals than him so far, including Jason Chimera.

But the Washington Capitals shouldn't be too concerned. There is evidence to suggest that we're looking at a run of bad luck and a small sample size.

Neil GreenbergAlex Ovechkin's goals in the first five games of each of his seven seasons with the Washington Capitals.

Ovechkin has 17 shots on goal, and while that matches his fewest through five games since 2005-06, he did create seven of Washington's 14 even-strength chances against the Ottawa Senators and is getting a decent diet of offensive zone starts.

"That last game [vs. Ottawa], pucks were coming off his stick quicker," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He was making moves below the circles quicker. He was using his body better. He had more jump in his legs.

"Eventually, he's going to have a big offensive game."

"Nobody's worried about him, he'll end up with his 40-plus [goals] by the end of the year," frequent linemate Mike Knuble said.

Ovechkin will score goals, but there are other early-season NHL performances that are defying expectations and may or may not continue as anticipated. Let's examine a few to see whether you should buy in or if shouldn't get your hopes up, starting in Toronto.


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Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.