As it currently stands, Alex Ovechkin sits, fittingly, at No. 8 on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
But with the Great Eight’s ravenous pursuit of annual 50-goal campaigns trumping his desire to preserve his poetic placement on the all-time list, the 34-year-old is vaulting up the charts at a ridiculous pace. A dominant seven-game stretch that included three hat tricks and 14 goals overall has now pushed Ovechkin past four all-timers: Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier.
With 40 on the season and 29 games left to play in 2019-20, he’s on pace to finish with 61 goals in 2019-20. Getting there would put him at 719 career markers, good for sixth all-time, leapfrogging Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito.
The Russian phenom’s place in history is already set. His status as the greatest goal-scorer of his generation is already cemented, and the case for him being the greatest sniper of all time is plenty strong already as well.
But looking at the eight-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner, you wouldn’t know it. The veteran isn’t just maintaining his place among the game’s top snipers, he’s in fact quickening his pace, sprinting through the final stretches of the path that leads to Wayne Gretzky’s all-time mark of 894 goals rather than just closing it out with weathered grace.
That being the case, let’s take a closer look at Ovechkin’s latest feats, and a few other wild stats that help put into context just how historic his reign in the big leagues has been thus far.
1. His absurd scoring pace is speeding up as he closes in on Gretzky’s record
NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti sparked our interest Tuesday night with a tweet about how quickly Ovechkin’s managed to close the gap between his 600th goal and his impending 700th, as compared to the time it took him to net his previous 100.
Building on that note, we took a look back at each 100-goal stretch of Ovechkin’s career to see how his pace has fluctuated. First, here’s the career games amassed at each of his 100-point plateaus:
Ovechkin’s career games needed to reach 100-goal plateaus
167 games | 100 goals
296 games | 200 goals
473 games | 300 goals
634 games | 400 goals
801 games | 500 goals
990 games | 600 goals
1,137 games | 698 goals
The craziest aspect of the above list lies in that final line. Looking at the time in between each of those 100-point plateaus, Ovechkin’s pace shakes out like so:
Scoring pace between Ovechkin’s career 100-goal segments
0-100 goals | 167 games
100-200 goals | 129 games
200-300 goals | 177 games
300-400 goals | 161 games
400-500 goals | 167 games
500-600 goals | 189 games
600-698 goals | 147 games
Only two away from 700, Ovechkin’s on track to likely crack that barrier in roughly 150 games, which would be his quickest 100-goal pace since his opening couple years in the league when he was bulldozing through defences on the regular.
After naturally and understandably slowing down over the latter half of his career, he’s surged back during the tear that’s been his past 98 tallies. Unless he’s set for a hefty cold streak — unlikely given he’s coming off a hat trick of hat tricks — it seems the Great Eight’s only speeding up as he moves towards No. 99’s golden mark.
2. He now stands alone with Gretzky among the 40-goal crowd
If it feels like it’s become routine to see Ovechkin surpass the 40-goal mark, it’s because it is — the Caps captain’s most recent 40th marked the 11th time in his career that he’s hit that total in one season.
That puts him in rarer air than one might assume — only one other player in the history of the game managed to post 11 40-goal campaigns: Wayne Gretzky.
And the Great Eight isn’t too far behind The Great One in this particular category — Gretzky only managed one more 40-goal effort through his prolific career, posting 12 such seasons with his last coming at age 30.
3. He’s the only player to ever post this many 40-goal seasons with one team
While he’s never going to unseat any of the former greats when it comes to single-season goal totals — Ovechkin’s career-high 65 tallies ranks 23rd all-time behind monster efforts like Gretzky’s 92-point season — he has been historically consistent.
The near-record number of 40-goal campaigns he’s reeled off is evidence enough of that. But beyond that, he’s also the only player in league history to do it for one franchise, as pointed out by Gulitti. Gretzky, of course, split his sterling campaigns between Edmonton and Los Angeles.
In fact, of the seven players who rank as the only ones to put up more goals than Ovechkin, only one similarly had all their best goal-scoring seasons with one team: Gordie Howe, who’s best work all came in a Detroit Red Wings sweater.
4. The Great Eight ranks eighth among the all-time hat-trickers
With three hat tricks netted in the past few weeks, Ovechkin pushed his career hat-trick total up to 27.
That puts him just past the player whose name adorns the trophy Ovechkin’s snagged eight times during his career — the Washington stalwart now has the eighth-most hat tricks all-time, just besting Maurice Richard’s 26.
5. He’s also the first player to net this many hat tricks this late in his career
As seen by the absurd pace in which he’s racked up his past 98 goals, the 34-year-old has shown he’s no closer to slowing down despite the tread on the tires.
He’s still scoring in bunches too — not only did his latest slew of hat tricks push him higher on the list for total hatties, it also made a bit of different history given his age at the time.
Per Gulitti, Ovechkin now ranks as the only player to score four or more hat tricks in a season after turning 33 years old — no small feat in a league skewing younger and faster each year.
Even more impressive, Ovechkin’s four hat tricks are actually the most he’s ever scored in one season. While he’s had a few campaigns with three hatties, his fourth put him into new territory, and a hefty stretch of the season left to play means he could push that number even higher.
6. He’s been the first 40-goal scorer of the year more times than anyone else
Another nugget from the NHL — in hitting 40 on the year before anyone else this season, Ovechkin became the first to reach the plateau in a particular year for the ninth time.
That means in 60 per cent of his 15 NHL seasons, he’s been the quickest in the league to hit the hallowed goals mark — some remarkable consistency given the number of young, dynamic snipers who’ve entered the league and made their names over that span.
Unsurprisingly, he’s tops in league history in that unique category as well, per Gulitti, with no other player getting to 40 quicker that many times. Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito were the closest to the Great Eight, accomplishing the feat six and five times, respectively.
7. He’s one of only a handful to score a hat trick that late in a game
If you somehow missed the performance that spurred the latest outpouring of awe from the hockey world, here’s about all you need to know:
Midway through the Capitals’ tilt against the Kings on Tuesday, Washington found itself trailing 2-1. Then Ovechkin Ovechkin’d the unfortunate Kings, as he does, scoring three straight late tallies in the final seven minutes of the game to give his squad a 4-2 win.
It was about as stiff a reminder as you could get of the type of potent offensive potential you’re dealing with any time you come up against No. 8 in a Caps sweater.
And Tuesday’s feat put Ovechkin into yet another rare goal-scoring group — only 12 other players in NHL history have ever managed to post a hat trick in the final seven minutes of a game, per the Capitals, the last being fellow Cap Peter Bondra back in ’96.
The clutch hatty was the fastest of Ovechkin’s career too, and the fourth-fastest in Capitals history. Summary: he knows his way around a hat trick.
8. He’s among the best in the most important goal-scoring category of them all
While there were plenty of fun, quirky aspects of Ovechkin’s late-game heroics on Tuesday, the most important aspect of it was that the Russian phenom’s second goal wound up being the game-winner.
It’s a feeling the veteran’s very familiar with — with that clincher in tow, Ovechkin now has 110 game-winners to his name, tied for the fourth-most in league history, alongside Teemu Selanne and Brett Hull.
Only Jaromir Jagr, Gordie Howe and Phil Esposito have put up more winners all-time — No. 68 leads the way with an absurd 135 game-winners to his name. A high-water mark that seems unattainable, but in truth will probably be bulldozed by the Great Eight along with all the rest of the once-unreachable sniping records.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 5, 2020