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Im going to write in defence of Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin, if only because there have been some recent attacks and, while I can certainly live with them being directed at Ovechkin, the analytical process ought to be better, particularly if its going to be a hit piece on the leagues leading goal-scorer. David Silva Spain Jersey . Yes, Im writing to defend a player that is on pace for a 59-goal season, when the second-best goal-scorer in the NHL this season, Torontos Phil Kessel, is on pace for 43. Naturally, I didnt think that Ovechkin would be a player that needed much defending, but hes taken some hits lately. Im going to largely ignore his contributions on the power play because its not in any dispute that Ovechkin is great with the man advantage and can make a difference even when he doesnt score. On one side of the discussion, we have the Toronto Star, with their Department of Hockey Analytics, and while there are plenty of flaws in Ovechkins game, they somehow determined that his goals-for/against percentage was the way to illustrate the problem. Never mind that goals for/against percentage is essentially measuring plus-minus. Ill get to that in a moment but, first, also peruse the Hockey News piece by Ken Campbell who, after Ovechkin was minus-5 against Columbus, decided that Ovechkin has to decide what kind of player he is. After all, Ovechkin was minus-17 on the season after that game. Whats odd about using plus-minus to denigrate Ovechkins contributions is that anyone doing serious analytical work in hockey has been against using plus-minus because it involves so many factors beyond an individual players control (not least of which are the contributions of nine other skaters and two goaltenders when the game is 5-on-5) and, generally, involves small samples because goals are relatively rare events. Its funny to find myself in this position, because I can be a bit of an apologist for plus-minus. You spend enough time around the game and that thinking can be pretty common, and when the sample is large enough, you can get a pretty decent list of players at both ends of the spectrum. (For example, heres the list of players with the best cumulative plus-minus since 2000, and here are the worst.) But, Ive at least learned that there are many other factors that go into whether a player is a plus or minus player, and they must be considered if youre going to attempt to pass judgment on a single season or, especially, a portion of a season. So, lets take a look at some factors that are at play to make Alex Ovechkin a minus-17. First off, the shooting percentage of others on the ice with Ovechkin at 5-on-5 is ridiculously low. His 6.3% is only ahead of fourth-liners Aaron Volpatti and Jay Beagle among Capitals forwards. The suggestion could be made -- and of course it has been -- that Ovechkin isnt making those around him better, but here are the 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentages when Ovechkin has been on the ice for the past five seasons: 10.36%, 8.62%, 8.05%, 11.76%, 9.09%. Youre really going to have to dig for reasons, other than poor luck and ineffective shooters, to explain even-strength shooting effectiveness declining by 40% over last season, especially when Ovechkin himself is shooting 10.6% (18 goals, 170 shots) at 5-on-5. Taking away Ovechkins 18 goals on 170 shots, leaves the other Capitals to score eight goals on 242 shots (3.3%) with Ovechkin on the ice. Marcus Johansson, his most common left winger, has one goal on 51 shots. This undeniably effects plus-minus, right? Of course it does. Give Ovechkin an average on-ice shooting percentage (say, 8%) and that is a difference of about seven goals. At the other end of the rink, Ovechkin is getting burned with a .909 save percentage at 5-on-5. Naturally, the argument will be that Ovechkins defensive play is what leads to that low percentage. Keep in mind, that percentage is well below career norms for him (.922 over the past five seasons, including this one) and ranks near the bottom on the Capitals roster. Use that typical save percentage, on 439 shots against, and that becomes a difference of 5-6 goals. So, why not take a look at where the shots are coming from with Ovechkin on the ice? According to Some Kind of Ninjas Shot Tracker, shots against the Capitals with Ovechkin on the ice at even strength, come from an average distance of 34.5 feet. In the previous five seasons, it has been 34.2, 36.6, 35.8, 34.6 and 35.9 feet on average. There can be an argument made, based on those average shot distances, that Ovechkins most effective defensive performances were in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 (the Dale Hunter season), but there really isnt a huge difference; goaltenders arent suddenly flummoxed by 34-foot shots when 36-footers are easy pickings. On top of that, best of luck trying to identify those particular seasons as anything close to Ovechkins best. Why? Because he scored 70 goals and 150 points in 157 games over those two seasons, producing the two lowest point scoring rates of his career. Yes, even lower than this season, when virtually no one else puts the puck in the net with him on the ice. Of course Ovechkin is not a defensive whiz, but that shouldnt stand as an indictment any more than it has for elite offensive players throughout the history of the game. Seriously, take a look at the Top 10 goal-scorers in the league, none of whom put the puck in the net like Ovechkin, and identify the ones that are notably strong backcheckers. Some are: Joe Pavelski, Alexander Steen, Patrick Sharp, but theres no reason to believe that right wingers Kessel or Corey Perry or Patrick Kane are doing brilliant work in the defensive end. Heres the thing: theyre all great players! Part of the trouble for Ovechkin is that the Capitals havent been able to win in the postseason, so he gets painted with the brush of failure for a whole host of team shortcomings. Thats what comes with being a superstar. This Capitals team is flawed. They rank in the bottom third of the league in Fenwick Close (measuring shot attempts, not including blocks, at even strength, with the score close), which is a good indication of team puck possession, yet Ovechkin has relatively solid possession numbers. If you want to break down a players overall contribution, and feel that you must use one statistic in order to do so (better yet, dont), then at least reduce the impact of others on the ice and look at the possession stats, because it wont matter that linemates arent finishing or that, for whatever reason, goaltenders arent stopping the puck. Shooting and save percentages fluctuate and while they affect perception -- just ask Tyler Bozak -- they dont get to the bottom of a players on-ice contribution, and so it is with Ovechkin this year, who is having a fine season, no matter what his plus-minus says. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Lucas Vazquez Spain Jersey . Bring on Freddy Garcia. The well-travelled 36-year-old right-hander earned his second NL victory since 2007, and his first since he joined the Atlanta Braves last month, pitching six innings to help beat Miami 6-1 Thursday. Gerard Pique Jersey . 1 Pete Sampras. Speaking ahead of an exhibition match against Andre Agassi in London on March 3, Sampras said on a conference call Wednesday that he is impressed by Federers longevity. http://www.spainsoccerpro.com/Alvaro-Odriozola-Spain-Jersey/ . - Pierre-Maxime Poudrier scored twice and added an assist, and Antoine Bibeau made 43 saves as the Val-dOr Foreur downed the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 6-3 on Sunday to force Game 7 in their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final series.SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The victory lap around Lamade Stadium never gets old for Japan, nor does the players ritual of scooping up some souvenir dirt near the mound after another Little League World Series triumph. A perennial power in youth baseball, Japan rallied past Chula Vista, Calif., 6-4 on Sunday to win its ninth title and third in four years, the only disappointment in that recent span a loss in 2011 to Huntington Beach, Calif. Ryusei Hirooka won this one with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning and Shunpei Takagi hit two solo home runs to help keep the Tokyo team undefeated in the tournament. "In all honesty, Im really happy," said Japan manager Masumi Omae, who also led the 2003 Japan team to the World Series title. "I definitely always dreamt about coming back to win again. To be able to trust the kids and their abilities is something Im most proud about." Facing one last threat in the sixth, the Japanese players erupted in glee, tossing Omae in the air near the mound after his slick fielders had turned a game-ending double play. "Wanting to be World Series champs is all weve talked about for the last two years," Takagi said. "I was thinking, just get a hit at the plate. The outcome was two homers, so I was really happy." It was the 14th championship game for Japan and 23rd for California, which has won seven World Series titles. Giancarlo Cortez had a two-run single and Grant Holman an RBI single for Chula Vista. Trailing 4-3 after Cortezs clutch single in the fourth, Japan tied it on Takagis second homer and won it when Hirooka lined a 2-2 pitch down the left-field line after not being able to sacrifice the runners up a base. "My mind was full, trying to get the bunt down," Hirooka said. "When I didnt get (the bunt) down, my mind was blank. Im just so happy I could get a hit to help our team win." California beat Westport, Conn., 12-1 in the U.S. championship game Saturday, while Japan edged Mexico 3-2 for the international title. The Americans left 12 runners on base in a game that was there for the taking. "We left some opportunities out there, but give Japan credit," Chula Vista manager Rick Tibbett said. "They made some great defensive plays." Unbeaten, too, entering the game, Chula Vista struck early to send a message that it would be a tense affair. Keyed by the shaggy-haired duo of Micah Pietila-Wiggs and Jake Espinoza at the top of the order, California scored twice in the top of the first against Japan starter Kazuki Ishida to put the pressure on. Pietila-Wiggs was hit by a pitch leading off and Espinoza lined a double down the left-field line. Pietila-Wiggs came around to score on a passed ball and Holman singled home Espinoza. California received a scare when Cortez was hit by a pitch in the helmet during the first inning and departed for a pinch-runner after being examined on the field. Ishida went over to shake Cortezs hand and apologize, and Cortez returned to play his position when Chula Vista took the field for the first time. Holman, who pitched a no-hitter in the World Series, hadnt pitched since Wednesday and was shaky at the outset, walking two of the first three batters he faced and throwing a wild pitch as Japan quickly mounted a threat of its own and tied the score. Takuma Gomi, whose dramatic solo homee run in the top of the sixth had given Japan a 3-2 victory over Mexico in the international championship Saturday, lined an RBI single. Sergio Ramos Spain Jersey. A botched throw in from the outfield on the hit sailed wide of home plate, allowing Takagi, who had walked, to score the second run. California escaped further damage when Kyousuke Kobayashi singled to centre and Espinoza threw out Gomi at home. The West champions mounted another threat in the second, loading the bases with two outs. But Holman struck out, waving his bat ever-so-slightly at a pitch that was low and outside and shaking his head in dismay at the call. If Japan had a plan, it likely was to make the hard-throwing Holman work, and the tall right-hander did just that. When he struck out Sho Miyao looking to end the second inning, he had thrown 50 pitches. Not a good omen for the West champions with a maximum of 85 allowed and Nick Mora, the hero of Saturdays win over Connecticut with a 10-strikeout, two-hit performance, ineligible to pitch. Ishida wasnt faring any better. After three innings he had thrown 69 pitches, struck out five, walked three, and hit three batters. Japan took a 3-2 lead when Takagi led off the bottom of the third by slamming a home run over the right-field fence on an 0-1 pitch. A smile on his face, Takagi raised his right arm in triumph as he rounded the bases and was mobbed by his teammates after crossing the plate. Holman avoided further damage by striking out pinch-hitter Tatsuki Nagano and getting pinch-hitter Seiya Nishino to ground out to first with two runners on. When he went to the dugout, Holman had only three pitches left to reach the maximum of 85 and was through on the mound for the day. "We certainly expected to get more than three innings from Grant," Tibbett said. "From the first inning, you could tell he was leaving pitches up. Once it took him 28 pitches to get through the first inning we knew somebody else would probably finish the game." The Japanese pitchers kept the hot-hitting Pietila-Wiggs off-balance at the plate, but after getting fooled by a pitch in the top of the fourth he laced a ground-rule double down the left-field line. Espinoza followed with a bloop single to left and took second on the throw in. Ishida then hit Mora to load the bases, tying the World Series record for most hit batsmen in a game, and Keita Saito came on in relief. Batting with the bases loaded, Holman, who hit a grand slam earlier in the World Series, grounded to third and Japan got the forceout at home for the first out. A day earlier, Japan twice escaped big jams in the win over Mexico, once with the bases loaded and nobody out. This time it failed as Cortez laced a two-run single to left field for a 4-3 lead. Ricky Tibbett relieved Holman in the fourth and retired the side in order, striking out two, as Chula Vista crept that much closer to the title. Patrick Archer walked leading off the fifth and Dominic Haley reached on an error by first baseman Kensuke Tsuchida to give California a chance to extend its lead. Wiggs then laced a shoulder-high fastball down the left-field line for a single to load the bases, the ball hit too hard for Archer to score from second. That proved critical. Espinoza lined to left and Archer was doubled up at home on a strong throw by Gomi, and Mora struck out, stranding another two runners. Discount Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Online Jerseys NFL China Wholesale Jerseys From China Cheap NFL Womens Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Free Shipping China Jerseys Cheap ' ' '


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