Right now, there isn't a NHL season. Right now, Ilya Kovalchuk isn't sitting around doing nothing. Right now, he's making things happen for SKA St. Petersburg; specifically, bringing the offense with 29 points in 22 games. Right now, you shouldn't be surprised that he's being productive somewhere else because he's always has been a very productive player.
You saw it last season as Kovalchuk led the New Jersey Devils in scoring and finish fifth in entire NHL in points. Over the course of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, Kovalchuk is sixth among all NHL players in points with 580 points in 552 games and second only to Alexander Ovechkin in goals with 298 according to Hockey-Reference. Kovalchuk produces. If you want to have another reason to be unhappy about the lockout, then it's the reality that we're missing out on Kovalchuk scoring goals and making plays for New Jersey while he's still a superlative scorer.
While we wait, I think now is a good time as any to take a closer look at the scoring he did last season. Kovalchuk scored 37 goals in the regular season, tying him with three other players for sixth most in the league. He lit the lamp eight more times in the playoffs, which put him in a seven-way tie for most in the playoffs. Just like what I did for David Clarkson's goals back in the summer, I want to try and sort out how Kovalchuk scored each and every one of his 45 goals. Did he fire away on one-timers? How often did he get in close for a goal? How often did he score on slap shots on power plays? Was Kovalchuk the beneficiary of any fluke plays? We can answer all of those and more by reviewing the goals themselves.
About the Review
As with the reviews of David Clarkson's goals, I will be documenting the game situation, the type of shot, and the type of goal for each one of Kovalchuk's scores. Each are self-explanatory. If not, I'd be more than happy to clarify either here or in the comments. I'm also noting whether the shot he took would count as a scoring chance. I'm using the definition of a scoring chance as defined by Jonathan Willis in this article for the Edmonton Journal. I am also judging whether or not the goal was scored on some kind of fluke play. This would account for events such as if a shot going off a defending player which re-directed the puck to beat the goalie, or if the goalie simply misplayed the shot. I'll go into those as appropriate in the commentary. Lastly and most importantly, I have included a link to the NHL.com video for each goal. These are the videos I used to review each goal; I did not look for any other video. Feel free to see them for yourself and come to your own conclusions or just spend some time watching #17 make the sirens go off.
This post will focus on the first twelve goals Kovalchuk scored in 2011-12 for the Devils. The next post will go over the next thirteen (you'll know why it's thirteen when we get there); the last twelve in the regular season in the third post; and the fourth post will look at the playoff goals. There will be a summary at the end of it all. This review will not look at shootout goals as those are completely different situations than what we see in the normal course of the game. Though, there is one exception which you'll see in this post. Now that you know what will be coming, here's the first chart of the goal review.
The First 12 Goals Ilya Kovalchuk Scored in 2011-12 - A Chart
Note: You may need to maximize your window to see the whole chart.
|Date||GF||Link||Shot Type||Goal Type||Situation||SC?||GF Description||Fluke?|
|10/10/11||1||Link||One-touch||Rebound||5-on-5||Yes||Palmieri takes puck in, Josefson knocks it to a trailing Kovalchuk going to the slot. Ward stops first shot, Kovalchuk scores on second.||No|
|10/15/11||2||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-3||No||Kovalchuk controls it above the high slot, grips, and rips one off the left post and in.||No|
|11/16/11||3||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-4||No||Elias wins the puck back to Kovalchuk at the point. He beats one man, skates to the left dot, and fires one in at far post.||No|
|11/21/11||4||Link||One-touch||Rebound||5-on-5||Yes||Kovalchuk wins puck in own zone, leads rush, and feeds Tallinder. Tallinder's shot is either stopped or blocked, but Kovalchuk pots it back in all the same.||No|
|11/30/11||5||Link||One-touch||Rebound||5-on-5||Yes||Parise dumps it in, Henrique helps him win it and sweep it in front, and Kovalchuk stashes it through the goalie.||No|
|12/2/11||6||Link||Forehand||Deflection||5-on-5||Yes||Parise keeps puck in zone along boards and a cycling Kovalchuk retrieves. He circles all the way to the right circle, fires a shot, and it gets re-directed in by a defender.||Yes|
|12/6/11||7||Link||Slap Shot||One-timer||5-on-4||No||Sykora collects puck on sideboards, sees Kovalchuk open on right point, and hits him with a pass. Kovalchuk one-times a rocket into the net.||No|
|12/8/11||8||Link||One-touch||One-timer||5-on-5||Yes||Kovalchuk's long shot misses and Henrique collects it. He passes to Parise behind the net, who feeds a charging Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk one-times it off the post and in.||No|
|12/12/11||9||Link||One-touch||One-timer||5-on-5||Yes||Parise blocks a shot at the point; he and Kovalchuk breakaway. Parise passes to Kovalchuk for an in-close one-timer||No|
|12/16/11||10||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-5||No||Larsson blocks a pass that sends the puck out to Parise in the neutral zone. Parise lays it off for Kovalchuk, who takes it to the left dot. Shot goes off the goalie and in.||
|12/23/11||11||Link||Slap Shot||One-timer||5-on-4||No||Kovalchuk fakes a shot and passes to Foster. Foster gives it back and Kovalchuk one-times it through traffic and the goalie's legs.||No|
|12/31/11||12||Link||Forehand||Shot||PS||No||Penalty shot - Kovalchuk skates in close and beats Fluery low.||No|
Believe it or not, Kovalchuk scored twelve goals between the beginning of the season and the end of 2011. That may not seem like much, but the twelve do demonstrate a number of aspects to Kovalchuk's goal-scoring ways.
First, Kovalchuk has a fantastic shot. What that means is that he's not limited to a particular part of the ice to where he'll fire and succeed. GFs #1, #5, and #8 show he's willing and able to get to the net and make something happen, even off a rebound. GFs #2, #3, and #10 are good examples of Kovalchuk's wrist shot. He's also willing to drop the hammer for a blistering slap shot as seen in GFs #7 and #11. While Kovalchuk didn't put up any backhanders or deflect any pucks, he was able to score in very different places on the ice. That's why only half of these were in the zone for scoring chances. That's also a big part of what makes him dangerous to opponents.
Second, Kovalchuk is adept at moving into dangerous locations off the puck. In terms of off the puck movement, I was very impressed with GF #8 where Kovalchuk initially missed a shot, noticed his linemates collecting the puck, and headed down into space which is technically not his side of the ice. He knew where to go, he got there quickly enough, and Zach Parise read it first to make the play happen. Another good example was GF #5, where Kovalchuk led the rush, laid it off for Henrik Tallinder, and kept going to the net expecting the shot. While the shot was blocked, Kovalchuk's decision to keep driving was rewarded as he got the puck and had a lot of net to shoot at.
Third, Kovalchuk showed that he's very skilled at moving with the puck. Among all twelve goals in this set, I was the most impressed with GF #6. That's a great example of how well Kovalchuk can move with the puck. He collects a puck Parise kept in play and proceeded to cycle around to the other side of the slot. He had the skill to maintain control, the pace to get into the space first, and then used his strength to get a shot off. While the shot was re-directed in by a defender, Kovalchuk's movement made that play possible. Another good on-the-puck example was GF #3, where Kovalchuk just straight up beat a man in one-on-one coverage on his way to a goal.
Fourth, even Kovalchuk benefited from some lucky breaks. On GF #6, while Kovalchuk hustled to get into space for the shot, it only became a goal because a defender accidentally deflected it down and through his goalie. GF #10 was very similar to GF #3 except he didn't have to beat a defender to get to the dot and the shot went off the goalie and in. While he got a piece of it, I felt it was fortunate for Kovalchuk that it wasn't enough to fully stop the shot. I counted both of them as flukes even though each weren't particularly odd or lucky plays. It's because events out of Kovalchuk's control directly led to the goals.
11/30 UPDATE: I've reconsidered GF #10 based on the initial comments in this post. Upon reviewing the video again, it would be more accurate that the goalie getting a piece of the shot isn't a fluke but a mistake. He made an error on the play, which did lead to the goal. The shot itself didn't take a weird bounce or go in off an odd deflection, it was directly in the path of the goalie. Therefore, I've decided to not call GF #10 a fluke.
Fifth, Kovalchuk knows how to finish off plays. You can see it with the one timers. You can see it with the rebound goals. An example of finishing on the rush can be witnessed in GF #9. Parise created the situation with the block, but Kovalchuk joined him on the rush and calmly one-touched the pass right at the crease to end it all with a goal. It wasn't a big, fancy shot; just a reactive play where he easily beat the goaltender. Going back to the first point, Kovalchuk can score in all sorts of manners - even on the rush.
As one last point of commentary for this set, I want to highlight GF #12. It was a goal on a penalty shot. While they are technically no different from a shootout situation, I made it an exception as it counted within regular play. Goal or no goal, the teams would play on as usual. Penalty shots are rather rare, so Kovalchuk making the most of it certainly is a big deal. I'm still confused how he beat the goaltender so cleanly with a low shot. Whether it really went five hole or just past his leg, it just looked so easy. Given how hot Kovalchuk was in the shootout in 2011-12 (11 for 14), perhaps it shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
Thank you for taking the time to read through the first part of this review of Ilya Kovalchuk's goals. Before the next part comes out, I'd like to know what you think of this set of twelve goals. What have you learned from these twelve goals? Would you agree this set shows off the many ways he can strike, or would more goals be needed? Which one of these goals was your favorite? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about these twelve goals scored by Kovalchuk in the comments.