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Alex Ovechkin not slowing down as he continues chasing Gretzky

Alex Ovechkin

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals takes a slapshot against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of the game at Capital One Arena on October 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

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At some point you have to think that Alex Ovechkin is going to start slowing down just a little because, well, that’s just what happens to players when they get into their late 30s. Aging curves exist and are real and nobody ever really avoids them at the professional level. Even the great ones reach the cliff at some point.

Every year you might wonder: Is this the year age catches up to him? How many more times can he score 50 goals? Is the decline lurking around the corner?

Then every year it never happens. This year is no different.

Ovechkin enters the Washington Capitals game on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres, 52 days clear of his 36th birthday and one of the oldest players in the league, not only still chugging along at a dominant level, but also off to one of the best starts of his career.

Yeah, even now in his 17th season he is still reaching new levels for himself.

Entering play on Tuesday Ovechkin already has 10 goals, 18 total points, and 54 shots on goal through his first 11 games of the season. He is tied (Leon Draisaitl) for the league lead in goals, third in total points (Draisaitl and Connor McDavid), and has the outright lead in shots on goal (eight more than any other player). He has also impacted the game in every possible phase, scoring two power play goals, a shorthanded goal (his first since the 2008-09 season) and seven even-strength goals.

Just to put all of those numbers in perspective with the rest of his career...

  • This is only the fifth time in his career he has scored at least 10 goals in his first 11 games. Only once has he topped it (11 goals in 11 games during the 2009-10 season). In the previous four seasons he finished with 49, 50, 51, and 51 goals respectively.
  • His 18 total points are the second most he has ever had at this point in the season, being topped only by his 19 points through the first 11 games of the 2009-10 season.
  • The 54 shots on goal are the fifth most he has ever had at this point in the season.
  • Of the top-30 scorers in the NHL right now, he is one of just six that are over the age of 30 and the only one over the age of 34 right now.

It is also helping him continue his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s goal mark as he rapidly climbs the all-time leaderboard.

He already moved ahead of Marcel Dionne for fifth place on the all-time list earlier this season, and is now just one goal away from matching Brett Hull for fourth on the all-time list.

He is only 26 goals away from Jaromir Jagr for third on the list.

Barring injury, he should pass both players this season and continue to work his way to the top. Given his recent pace the past couple of years and continued consistency he should be in second place by early next season. Had it not been for the lockout of 2012-13 and the shortened seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21 he could probably be another 50 goals closer right now.

Regardless of where he sits now or where he will sit a year from now, Ovechkin continues to be a one-of-a-kind scorer that has not only exceeded expectations for the era, but also continues to defy normal aging curves.