NHL Milestone Watch: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury both chasing 500

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) skates up ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

For years Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby were inseparable as two anchors on a Penguins dynasty that won three Stanley Cups and spent more than a decade as a powerhouse in the NHL.

While they haven’t been teammates for five seasons now, the two future Hall of Famers are connected in this column by one thing: the number 500.

Fleury, now a member of the Blackhawks, is on pace to reach 500 regular season wins this season while Crosby can join Alex Ovechkin as the only other player to score 500 goals in the post-lockout era.

Those are just two of the notable milestones that could be hit this season. Here are some of the ones we’ll be watching for.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks: Eight wins from 500

When asked if this season might be his last on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Marc-Andre Fleury said that it “could be.” If this really is the last dance for Fleury, he has the chance to go out with a special milestone by becoming just the third goalie to record 500 regular season wins.

Fleury won 26 of his 36 starts last season on route to winning his first Vezina Trophy, but he’s now a member of the rebuilding Blackhawks as opposed to the perennial-contending Golden Knights. Still, Fleury should be the primary starter in Chicago and will get plenty of chances to crack 500.

As for where his career goes from here? No one knows, including the goalie himself.

Other potential win milestones: Sergei Bobrovsky (three away from 300), Mike Smith (17 away from 300), Andrei Vasilevskiy (10 away from 200).

Keith Yandle, Philadelphia Flyers: 43 consecutive games played away from 965

A lot has changed in the NHL over the past 12 seasons but one thing has remained the same: Keith Yandle’s presence in an NHL lineup. The veteran defenceman, now a member of the Flyers, currently holds the second-longest iron man streak in NHL history with 922 consecutive games played. If he’s able to stick with the Flyers and stay healthy, he will pass Doug Jarvis’ all-time record of 964 in Game 43 against the Red Wings on Jan. 18.

Yandle began the streak as a 22-year-old on March 26, 2009, while a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. Since then, he hasn’t missed a regular season game -- including playing in 84 during the 2014-15 campaign after a trade from the Coyotes to the Rangers.

Now 35, Yandle isn't taking anything for granted.

"I would say a lot of luck," Yandle said in a recent interview about the streak with Yahoo! Sports' Wayne Fish. "I think every guy once you get to this level has the same type of compete and will to play. You want to be out there every day with your teammates, and I think for me I have been fortunate. I love coming to the rink whether it is practice day or game day. You love being here with the guys. The training staff and stuff like that I have had have been great and it is the same here.’’

Yandle isn’t the only person who could break Jarvis’ record this season, although he is in line to be the first. Free agent Patrick Marleau is 54 games behind Jarvis while Coyotes star Phil Kessel is 64.

Sidney Crosby: 14 goals away from 500

Sidney Crosby doesn’t get enough credit as a goal-scorer because his career will always be compared to Alex Ovechkin. But this season, Crosby has a chance to become just the second player to score 500 goals in the post-lockout era.

Crosby has dealt with injuries throughout his career but still managed to score at least 24 goals in 13 of his 16 seasons -- including last year’s pandemic-shortened campaign. Of all the players to play at least 100 games since his debut in 2005-06, he ranks sixth in goals per game with a rate of 0.47, only trailing heavy hitters Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos, Ilya Kovalchuck and Connor McDavid.

Even more impressively, Crosby enters the season with more career points (1,325) than Ovechkin (1,320) despite playing in 158 fewer games than his rival.

Still only 34, Crosby has a few good years left and should clear the 600 goal mark before retiring. If concussions hadn't derailed his career early on who knows how many more goals he would have scored, so he'll have to settle for watching Ovechkin try to take down the ultimate goal-scoring record -- Wayne Gretzky’s 894.

“It would be awesome. He’s in range,” Crosby said of Ovechkin's chase in a recent interview with ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. "I just hope that all his goals that he gets are against the other teams, as he's trying to add towards it."

Other potential goal-scoring milestones: Phil Kessel (nine away from 400), Auston Matthews (one away from 200), Leon Draisaitl (one away from 200), Connor McDavid (five away from 200).

Alex Ovechkin: 37 goals away from 767
Ovechkin is coming off the lowest-goal-scoring season of his career (24 in 45 games) but if he can stay healthy and return to form, he has a chance to move into third on the all-time goal-scoring list this season.

The now 36-year-old is entering the season with 730 career goals, good for sixth all-time, but he can jump Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) with a strong year. That would leave just Gordie Howe’s 801 and Gretzky’s 894 standing in his way.

Ovechkin is playing on a new five-year contract and will need to average 32.5 goals per season over that whole contract to catch Gretzky.

"Yeah, obviously, but I try to not think about it," Ovechkin said of chasing Gretzky's record during the recent NHL media tour. "I try to go out there and play and try to do my best."

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