“You can’t score every night,” Alex Ovechkin said Dec. 15 after a lackluster showing against the Buffalo Sabres in which he scored only one measly goal, his seventh in three games.
Ovechkin may think he can’t score every night, but he certainly comes close. His one goal against Buffalo on Dec. 15 only felt like a disappointment because he had scored a hat trick in each of the prior two games. As the NHL returns from the Christmas break on Thursday, Ovechkin sits first in the league in goals with 29, three more than Jeff Skinner who sits in second despite playing two more games.
What Ovechkin is doing this season is even more impressive given that he is 33 years old, when most players suffer a precipitous decline in production after seeing their prime years come and go.
“It's incredible,” T.J. Oshie said. “I can't explain it … but he's a special talent. He feels like to me a once in a lifetime goal scorer. It’s a pleasure being able to watch, being able to be a part of it and play on his line.”
“Such a threat, especially when he’s confident and he’s shooting the puck where he wants,” Brett Connolly said. “[Ovechkin is] a bull out there, it seems like he keeps getting better and better every year. Such a hungriness to score goals. He’s having a hell of a season and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down.”
Ovechkin’s continued scoring dominance is an appropriate way to cap off what has been the most remarkable year of the Great 8’s career.
The year 2018 saw Ovechkin score his 600th career goal, claim his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer (49 goals), finally defeat rival Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and, of course, hoist the Stanley Cup.
And, oh yeah, he also had a baby.
How do you follow up a season like that? By defying expectations and Father Time with 29 goals in 35 games – putting him on pace for for a 68-goal season – and setting a new career-high with a 14-game point streak at the age of 33.
“The age he's at to still continue to not only want to get better, but to be able to,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “After just the way he's played the game with such a physical presence and the energy he has and the size he is, it's not easy. … I know some other years statistically have been better, but for me it's his best two-way hockey that he's played.”
In his career, Ovechkin has established himself as one of the best to ever play the game. But in 2018, Ovechkin is putting the final touches on what has been the greatest year of his career.
“At that level that he got himself to last year right at the start of the year … he’s really just kept building off that,” Oshie said. “It’s fun being on this side of that when Big O is going like that. It’s a privilege to play with him out there.”