One of the biggest storylines in the final handful of games remaining in the NHL's regular season was how many goals Alex Ovechkin would ultimately finish with. He was tied for the league lead in goals and was two goals shy of hitting 50 when the regular season was put on pause. But while fans lament the fact that we may miss out on seeing him hit another historic milestone, Ovechkin made clear there are bigger issues at stake amid the spread of the coronavirus.
With 48 goals on the season and 13 games remaining for the Capitals, Ovechkin was sure to hit 50 goals for the ninth time of his career, tying the record set by Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky. At 34 years old, that's a mark he may never hit again. But after two weeks to reflect -- the NHL officially paused the season on March 12 -- the fact that the coronavirus may have robbed Ovechkin from setting a fairly significant career record does not seem to bother him.
"Of course, you want to score 50," Ovechkin said. "But right now, like everyone is saying, the most important thing is be stay safe and to get this thing done. It sucks to not score 50 and to not get another milestone, but you have to think about your family, people and fans to be more safe. I'm pretty sure the sooner this is going to be over, the sooner we're going to start back playing hockey. It'll be nice to score again 50 goals or reach those milestones, but right now our mind is on just trying to be safe. It's a scary situation."
It is unknown how long the league's pause may continue, but some players, including Ovechkin, have brought up the possibility of skipping the remainder of the regular season and just jumping into the playoffs when play does resume. Considering Ovechkin is 34, this could be the closest he gets to reaching 50 goals again. Even if he is able to do it again next season at the age of 35 and ie the record, losing the remainder of the regular season this year would almost certainly end his shot at setting the record and not just tying it.
Ovechkin was already scoring at an unprecedented rate since turning 30 as one of only five players age 30 and up to score 50 goals or more at least twice. This year was going to be his third which would have tied Phil Esposito for the most ever. What are the odds he could hit 50 goals not just once more in his career after this season, but twice?
Beyond just reaching 50 goals or competing for a ninth Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's leading scorer, there is also the effect this may have on Ovechkin's chase of Gretzky's goal record to consider.
Ovechkin was on pace for 57 goals. Had he kept that rate up, it would have meant scoring an additional nine goals in the final 13 games. That would move him past Mike Gartner for seventh on the all-time goals list and just two shy of Esposito for sixth. Gretzky's record of 894 still hangs in the distance, just within Ovechkin's grasp. If Washington does not get those final 13 games, however, that's nine goals or however many he would have scored that Ovechkin will never get back.
That's unfortunate and will feel all the more unfortunate if Ovechkin ultimately falls short of catching Gretzky. It is something that will bother the legion of Ovechkin fans who already point to the 2004-05 season that was erased by a lockout and the 2012-13 season that was shortened to 48 games and wonder just how many goals Ovechkin would have with an additional 116 games.
Ovechkin, however, is now a husband and the father of one son with another baby on the way. With the coronavirus spreading throughout the world, Ovechkin's main focus is on his family. Career milestones are a very distant second.
"You think about those little things, but as soon as you start thinking worldwide and what's going on in the world, it's scary," Ovechkin said. "So my mind right now, it's not about 50 goals or catching the Great One or somebody else, my mind right now is about doing the best what I can do or what my family can do to be safe and to get over it."
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