Ovechkin in Pursuit of NHL Career Goal Mark
There isn’t the same love affair for breaking iconic records in the NHL that there is in some of the other North American sports.
Nobody had to ask what Babe Ruth’s career home run total was when Hank Aaron was on the verge of breaking that record. People could recall Jim Brown’s career rushing total whenever the next wave of NFL running backs got within striking range.
When it comes to the NHL standards, there is one number that stands out and that is Wayne Gretzky’s regular-season mark of 894 career goals. Gretzky had at least 50 goals in the first eight seasons when the Edmonton Oilers made the jump from the WHA to the NHL, including an astonishing four-year stretch with 92, 71, 87 and 73 goals.
While Gretzky’s 92-goal mark is likely to stand forever, there is a challenge for his career goal-scoring mark.
Check out Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s stats and you’ll see he has 778 regular-season goals, which means he could get to “The Great One’s” mark in three more seasons.
Ovechkin: No Signs of Slowing Down
A total of 24 players selected in the first round of the 2004 NHL Draft are no longer in the league. Players like Evgeni Malkin and Blake Wheeler, who were chosen second and fifth overall, are still stars in the NHL, but nobody in that draft class shines any higher than Ovechkin.
When Ovechkin scored 33 goals during the 2016-17 season, there were whispers that his best days were behind him.
Those naysayers were silenced rather quickly when Ovechkin lit the lamp 49 times the next season. He followed that up with 15 goals and 12 assists in 24 postseason games to lead the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title.
If not for a 48-game schedule during the 2012-13 season, needing to wait until the 2005-06 campaign to make his NHL debut and having a shortened season in 2020-21, Ovechkin’s stats would have him much closer to goal No. 894.
Keeping Tabs on Record Chase
The 36-year-old Ovechkin is currently at 48 goals for this season and he has six games left to match Gretzky and the late New York Islanders legend Mike Bossy for the record of nine 50-goal seasons. If Ovechkin finishes at 50 goals, that would put him at 780 for his career.
If Ovechkin can keep putting up 50-goal seasons, he would approach the 894-goal mark during the 2014-15 season. Even if he falls to a 40-goal per season pace, he could set the mark during that season.
The current betting odds list him at +140 to top Gretzky’s mark and -180 to fall short. That is understandable because, at any point when a player hits their late 30s, the production can fall off.
Why Ovechkin Could Break the Record
Ovechkin is still as feared a player on the power play as anybody in the NHL and is seeing first-line minutes for the Capitals. There is nothing in his game to suggest that his production is due to tail off.
With the 3×3 overtime rules, there will be more opportunities for him to add to his total. If Gretzky could have taken the ice with Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey in a 3×3 overtime format, it is hard to think anybody could have stopped him from either scoring a goal or setting up one of his future Hall of Fame teammates. Gretzky’s NHL point total would be even more staggering than they already are if the current overtime system had been in place during his era.
Washington has done an exceptional job of keeping the nucleus together. Whether it is Nicklas Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov, there are players with the ability to get Ovechkin the puck in his shooting zone. With the way he can shoot the puck, that will allow the Alexander Ovechkin stats to keep going up, up and up some more.
Why Ovechkin Could Fall Short of Record
By the end of the playoffs, 11 of the Capitals’ top 14 scorers will be at least 30 years old. With experience and production come higher contracts and, unlike during Gretzky’s heyday, there is something called a salary cap for teams to navigate.
Can Washington keep this group together for three more full seasons? That seems unlikely. There isn’t an abundance of prospects ready to move into starring roles when it comes time for some of the current veterans to head elsewhere or hang up the skates. Will the next wave of Capitals allow the Alex Ovechkin goal totals to continue?
Ovechkin has been incredibly durable during his career. He is about to play at least 75 games for the 13th time. Gretzky had similar good fortunes as he played 80, 82, 82 and 70 games in his final four NHL seasons. Ovechkin plays a much more physical style than Gretzky. All it takes is one awkward crash into the boards, one upper-body injury to sideline him for a month or two and the timeline for goal No. 895 will be altered.