Think about this for a moment – Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is underrated. Yeah, he’s super-underrated. Think I’m crazy? Allow me to explain.
During Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, Ovechkin joined Wayne Gretzky (9), Mike Bossy (9), Mario Lemieux (6), Marcel Dionne (6) and Guy Lafleur (6) as the only players in NHL history to record six 50-goal seasons. He became only the fourth player in NHL history to record six 50-goal campaigns in his first 10 seasons – joining Gretzky, Bossy and Lafleur.
“Every year, it’s harder and harder,” Ovechkin said. “But it’s a huge accomplishment with those names up there. It’s always nice. But every year, you don’t know what to expect from yourself, how you are going to play.”
What Ovechkin is accomplishing in the low-scoring modern era is extremely impressive. Just ask Capitals head coach Barry Trotz.
“I mean I hadn’t been around anybody who’s ever scored 50 goals in this league, especially the way it’s so hard to score goals in this league,” Trotz said. “You know it’s a part of history, a guy who scores 50 in this league right now the way the goal scoring is. Teams check. The goaltenders are so good in the National Hockey League. To get 50, I mean I think I said yesterday, I think he’s like 20 percent (better) than the people next to him.”
When Ovechkin entered the league in 2005-06, the league average for goals-per-game was 3.08. Over the past four seasons, the league average of G/GP has hovered between 2.72 and 2.74. Meanwhile, power play opportunities per game have taken a sharp drop from 5.85 per game to an all-time low of 3.08 per game since the statistic began being recorded in 1963-64.
Ovi might just be the best pure goal-scorer of all-time.
“The Great Eight” ranks fifth all-time with .625 goals per game. Through 755 games, Ovechkin has already scored 472 career goals. Ovi is still just 29 – and more than halfway toward eclipsing Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record. If he’s able to maintain his current pace, Ovechkin would break Gretzky’s record of 894 goals in his 1,433rd career game.
But Ovechkin currently averages 51.2 goals every 82 games. It would be impossible to keep up that production into his late 30’s. Ovechkin needs 423 goals to surpass “The Great One.” If Ovechkin keeps scoring at his current rate, he would become the NHL’s all-time leading goal-scorer in 678 games.
Let’s say that Ovechkin finishes the season with 53 goals. That would take him to an even 475 career goals. If Ovechkin is able to play until the age of 41, that’s 12 more seasons. Should Ovechkin play 12 more seasons at an average of 35 goals per season and you add in the three goals he’s on-pace for this season, he would surpass Gretzky’s goal-scoring record by one goal – 895.
An average of 38 goals over the next 11 seasons would put Ovechkin just short of Gretzky’s record.
It’s impossible to predict the future. Ovechkin could suffer a major injury, he could opt to play in Russia in his final years, or he might play his entire career in the NHL and have Commissioner Bettman ruins his chances with another or multiple work stoppages.
When No. 99 retired, his records were thought to be unbreakable. We’re coming to learn that The Great Eight possesses the best shot of breaking Gretzky’s goal-scoring record.
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