The Capitals will hopefully be back on the ice this summer for the Stanley Cup playoffs after Tuesday’s return-to-play announcement by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Remember where we left off on March 12 before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic halted play?
Alex Ovechkin had 48 goals and with 13 games to go he seemed a lock to reach 50 for the ninth time in his career. That would have tied him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history.
That won’t happen now. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declared the regular season over on Tuesday as he laid out his plans for what the league hopes to do if it can get players safely back on the ice.
But if Ovechkin will fall just shy of 50 goals, he can console himself with yet another Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer. He will share that honor this year with Boston’s David Pastrnak, who also finishes with 48 goals.
It is the first time players have shared a Rocket since 2009-10 when Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos each had 51 goals. Three players tied for it in 2003-04. That trio was Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla and now-Capitals forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who was then with the Atlanta Thrashers, who now play in Winnipeg. In other words, it was a long time ago.
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Of course, nothing is sinple in these pandemic times. Later on Tuesday, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr told ESPN's Greg Wyshinski that stats from the "qualification" round could still be collectively bargained and those three games would count. Interesting. But for now, Ovechkin and Pastrnak have done what they are supposed to do to win - or share - the Rocket Richard Trophy. Keep an eye on this in the coming weeks.
Ovechkin remains two goals away from tying longtime Capitals forward Mike Gartner for No. 7 on the all-time goals list. Gartner has 708. Ovechkin sits at 706. That will have to wait until next year. Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731) and even Brett Hull (741) could all be within reach.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin was far from the only Caps’ player pushing for a milestone only to come up short with the regular season ended prematurely. John Carlson won’t reach the hallowed 90-point mark for a defenseman. Carlson hit the break with 75 points, which was 10 more than anyone at the position. He still had a decent shot to get there with 13 games left.
Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque was the last NHL defenseman to hit 90 points in a season 26 years ago with the Boston Bruins in 1993-94. Carlson remains a favorite for the Norris Trophy. Wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.
The Capitals had other players posting career years, too. Tom Wilson has 44 points to set a new personal best and his 21 goals were just one short of his single-season high.
Jakub Vrana, in his age 23-24 season, hit his career-best mark with 25 goals. Lars Eller had 16 goals, which was two shy of his career best (18). He also needed just one more point to reach 40 for the first time.
Maybe the most intriguing number out there? Braden Holtby is currently tied with Olie Kolzig at 35, but he might never get another chance to make that record his own. His contract expires at the end of the season.
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