Alex Ovechkin joined the elite 700 club on Saturday and further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players to play the game.
For most, the 700-goal milestone represented the pinnacle of their career. Only seven players before Ovechkin have reached 700 and only two of those players have made it to 800. Reaching 700 goals was more of a lifetime achievement for the other five players, something reflective of the kind of goal-scorer they used to be.
Ovechkin, however, is different.
Saturday was a day to celebrate and reflect on a milestone reached only seven times before. But with Ovechkin’s continued goal-scoring prowess and remarkable durability, 700 hardly feels like a journey nearing its end. Instead, it has made the impossible seem reachable. Suddenly, Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, long thought to be untouchable, seems not only possible for Ovechkin but realistic.
Ovechkin scored goal No. 700 in career game No. 1,144, the second-fastest in NHL history. Only Gretzky did it faster in just 886 games. Gretzky, however, only had one 40-goal season once he turned 30. He scored 41 goals in 1990-91 at the age of 30 and that would be the last time he would hit that mark.
Ovechkin is 34. He already has 42 this season and is on pace for 56. If he gets there, it will be the most goals scored by a player over the age of 33 ever.
Gretzky played nine more seasons after he hit 30 from the 1990-91 season to 1998-99. In that time, he scored 217 goals. Since turning 30, Ovechkin already has 225 goals. It should then come as no surprise that no one has ever gone from 600 to 700 goals faster in history. It took Ovechkin just 154 games to do it. Not only is that the fastest ever, but it’s also faster than he went from 500 to 600 (189 games). In fact, only once has Ovechkin gone from one milestone to the other faster in his career, when he went from 100 to 200 goals in just 129 games.
Those are the kind of numbers that begin to make you believe that catching Gretzky is a real possibility. What Ovechkin is doing at his age is unprecedented.
With every goal Ovechkin scores, the math for catching Gretzky becomes more and more realistic. If he continues on his current pace for 56 goals, he will finish the season with 714. If he plays four more seasons, he would need to average 45 goals per season to tie Gretzky. Again, that’s just if he plays four seasons. If he plays five seasons, then he would only need to average 36 goals. Even with a moderate drop off, a 36-goal average hardly seems outside of the realm of possibility for the Great 8.
At 34 years old, Ovechkin is still the best goal scorer in the game and is showing no signs of slowing down. Gretzky’s record does not seem impossible for him to reach because Ovechkin is already doing the impossible.
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