WASHINGTON DC, DC - APRIL 23:  Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 23, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

After a playoff disappointment of the magnitude just suffered by the Washington Capitals, it is perhaps inevitable that there is at least a little bit of finger pointing, and on the surface Alexander Semin would seem to be a prime target for blame.

After all, Semin – slated to earn $6.0 million next season before becoming a free agent – scored 40 goals this season, and 74 over the last two years, but couldn’t make the twine bulge even once over his team’s seven-game series with Montreal.  With two assists and an even plus/minus, the forward’s offensive totals represent a disappointing drop-off from his regular season numbers.

That said, any inclination to label Semin a chronic playoff underachiever would be wrong; he had five goals in Washington’s playoff run last year and had 22 points in 21 career playoff games prior to this season’s series against Montreal.

So what happened, then?  Simply put, Semin was snake-bit.  I’ve put together a handy table to make this point and I’ve bolded the areas I think are especially noteworthy:

Season Type GP G A PTS Shots/Gm SH%
06-07 Season 77 38 35 73 3.16 15.6
07-08 Season 63 26 16 42 2.94 14.1
07-08 Playoff 7 3 5 8 4.00 10.7
08-09 Season. 62 34 45 79 3.60 15.2
08-09 Playoff 14 5 9 14 3.00 11.9
09-10 Season 73 40 44 84 3.05 15.2
09-10 Playoff 7 0 2 2 6.29 0.0
Career Both 355 156 168 324 3.20 13.7%


Semin’s shots per game rate in this year’s playoff series against the Canadiens was nearly double his career average; in the last three games alone he fired 24 shots at Jaroslav Halak.  Unfortunately, despite that incredible quantity of shots, he wasn’t able to put in a single goal.

Others may suggest a different reason, but I’d suggest bad luck combined with exceptional goaltending by Halak is the likeliest explanation for Semin’s offensive woes.  He’s a pure scorer; he’s scored in both the playoffs and regular seasons past, and his career shooting percentage is quite high.  It just happened to be quite low in this series.

Comments (18)

  1. Semin hitting an improbable cold spell like this is one of the major luck factors that went in the Canadiens’ favor in this series.
    The Habs did a decent job at limiting Ovi (he still had 5 goals and 10 points!) and Backstrom, which meant the second line (Semin mostly) had easier match-ups. He could easily have destroyed the Habs had he scored at even half his career sh%.

  2. I think Semin gets moved this summer. Snake bit or not, he’s making $6 million next season and will be a UFA in the summer of 2011, and the Caps need to spread out their cap space a bit and add some depth. I would think they try and get a talented second line centre who can produce and is a bit closer in age to their core, unlike Morrison or Belanger, and a stay-at-home defenseman. If he’d had a good playoff I could see them trying to work with his cap number and find some space elsewhere, but with things the way they are I’d be quite surprised if they didn’t at least put his name out there this summer.

  3. Shotquality-shotquality-shotQUALITY-shotQUALITY-SHOTQUALITY-SHOTQUALITY!!!

    Jonathan, you know you are going to get a swarm of idiots who will try and convince you that none of Semin’s 44 shots were any good, despite Semin being a historically better-than-average finisher and despite Olivier being able to categorically prove that Semin had a ton of scoring chances.

    Still, I admire your persistence.

  4. How about Souray and Cogs for Semin and a 2nd. Souray gets out of Edmonton and the cap hit essentially a wash. It also gives some more grit to a Washington team that desperately needs it.

  5. Just to put his streak in context, and to dispell the notion that good players get it done when it counts, just look at Sidney Crosby from When the Penguins won the Cup in 2009:

    7GP 1G 2A 3PTS 16 SOG

    Those were his numbers in the Cup finals. He shot 6.25%, well below his career mark. I’m sure if Washington had survived you might have seen a series in which Semin scored 5 or 6 goals.

  6. If anyone does feel like talking shot quality, I’ll have a post on Semin’s up shortly.

  7. doug otway: I’d do it in a heartbeat as Oilers’ GM. I doubt Washington accepts, though.

  8. James and RO beat me to it and James said precisely what I would have said. I’ll only add that, as a habs fan with a trained eye to acknowledge scoring chances and especially uber dangerous scoring chances, it’s a miracle I got out of that series without a few heart attacks caused by Semin. Dude would cut inside, clear of, say, MAB, find himself square in front of Halak and shoot straight into the boards. Snake bit, as you say.

    As Tyler noticed over at his site, the Caps management seems (I insist: *seems*) not to have a completely sound grasp of what is luck and what isn’t. Semin is getting paid after next season and Backstrom is due up right now. Who knows, maybe someone can fleece them out of Semin?

  9. Also, I think the Habs could very well go all out next year and offer Hamrlik & Price for Semin. Bit of a steep price, but, I mean, that would make for a pretty nice Top-6, no?

    But the Caps have 20 millions available and 13 players under contract. I don’t think they need to do that. And I don’t think the habs want to move one of their goalies.

  10. Chris Boyle over at Eyes on the prize has a fairly interesting look at the shots allowed. Basically, he contends that Halak’s S% is dramatically lower from 20 feets in (.833) than 21 out (.961) and that the habs were actually able to box Semin, Ovechkin and Backstrom out of that zone.

    What’s interesting to me is that 21′-39′ radius where I do allow scoring chances while Boyle obviously consider those lesser chances.

  11. Olivier -

    I think that, solely from the game mechanics, we can agree that a shot from 39′ is less likely to be a goal than a shot from 5′, regardless of goaltender (meaning that’s probably not an observation that can only be made on Halak).
    That doesn’t mean both shots aren’t scoring chances though.

  12. The two things, in my experience, that differentiate good and bad goal scorers is that these guys can convert from the top of the circle in (Boyle’s 21-39 zone) at a higher rate than guys like say, Metropolit. The other thing is that they shoot all the time. If the habs coaching staff can convince AKost that he can and should shoot more from that 21-39 zone, dude will pot 30+ for the next few years.

  13. Olivier:

    That makes me curious about something. I mean from that top of the circle area guys will miss the net all the damn time, and from anytime you actually hit the net with the puck in your wheelhouse from there the goalie’s reaction is going to be at least 50% guesswork.

    I don’t know if proportion of shots put on net will actually correlate with historical SH% and now that I think about I might be talking myself into some seriously whacked-out shit here. Still, when I have the time and inclination I can investigate it for the 07/08 seasons onwards.

  14. proportion of shots put on net will actually correlate with historical SH%

    And by this, I of course refer only to shots and goals from that top of the circle area.

  15. I kinda veered into something weird there and I’m not sure I agree with myself when I say some guys “convert more efficiently”… Eyeballing the numbers for the regular season, Kostitsyn the Elder (14.8% over 101 sc), Cammalleri (14% over 171) and Gionta (16,7% over 167) are in a virtual tie and the supposedly horrendous Gomez is at 12/97, that is 13%…

    I think it’s a matter of quantity, period. Good scorers are good because they find their way in the high reward areas more often and all that stuff.

  16. 50% guess-work…I think the Oilers need a new goalie coach. You should apply for the job.
    Good scorers are good because they finish (Datsyuk, Crosby).
    Although,there are certainly different types of scorers; some guys do score more because of their athletic abilities (Ovechkin, Semin).
    The key is they are all goal scorers but different styles of goal scorer.
    If I have 1 shot to take and need a goal, I’ll take Datsyuk or Crosby over Ovechkin.
    Pure scoring ability? It is a skill and if you don’t believe me; just look at who NHL coaches select for the shootouts.
    Lauri Korpikoski…explain how a guy with 5 goals in 71 games gets 14 shootout attempts.
    Or why Ottawa used the same 4 guys for every shootout?
    Ovechkin was 2 for 9 in shootouts….Crosby was 8 for 10 (80% is kind of insane, but even career wise; Crosby out performs Ovie on shootouts).
    Jeff Carter has 3 career shootout goals, a 30+ goal scorer who doesn’t even get to sniff the shootout anymore. Wonder why?

    Jacques Martin and Halak are why Montreal is playing Pittsburgh.

    Think that these coaches don’t know what they are doing?

  17. Yeah ok, no-skill, use your 10-shootout samples and cherrypicked examples to try and prove a point that never ever ever happens on the ice!

    I don’t know that these coaches don’t know what they’re doing, but I sure as hell know you don’t know what you’re doing here.

  18. Like I said, you should apply for the goaltending coach position. 50% guess work, you’ll have vezina trophies coming out of your ears. Dave Tippet turned a bottom feeder into a 100 pt team. Ovie and Crosby is a standard comparison given the subject. The sun is out,why aren’t you under your bridge?

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