“When you get on the ice with them, you kind of stare at him and it's Alex Ovechkin,” Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes said. “You don't realize how big he is and how fast he is and stuff like that on TV, but when you get to see him in person that's kind of what you realize. Generational player.”
“I don't think special really does it justice,” New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “He's such a weapon, he's so dangerous when he's on the ice."
Good players come and go in sports. A player can look like the most dominant player in the sport, but that can often fade quickly. The legacy of the all-time greats, however, stands the test of time. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize the difference between good and great in the moment, and then there are those players who transcend the game in such a way that you cannot help but recognize their greatness.
Even before Ovechkin scored his 700th goal, he had reached that point. But on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, he further solidified himself among the all-time greats of the game.
“He's just that good,” Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “That's all it is. He's an amazing player.”
Those sentiments are echoed by players across the game, especially by those who get to see it up close.
“It's every day,” Garnet Hathaway said. “It's not just a couple games here and there. There's a reason he can put a streak together like this. It's how much he works on his game and just how ready he is to go and how seriously he takes every shift.”
“He hasn't lost a step, he hasn't gotten slower, his shot hasn't gotten softer, he hasn't had any less drive,” T.J. Oshie said. “If anything, more drive. It's going to be fun to watch his career and see how many people he can climb on that all-time goals ladder.”
But such adulation is not restricted just to Ovechkin’s teammates.
Opponents and rivals from across the league can’t help but praise the Great 8 who has never been more deserving of that moniker than he is now.
“What I admire the most about him, it's always a challenge playing against him,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “He's got that mean streak to his game. When he's coming at full speed it's going to hurt. He gets physical, he gets into the game more.”
“He scores a lot of the same goals over and over again and it is indefensible,” Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said.
When discussing Ovechkin’s goal-scoring prowess, it does not take long for his shot to come up.
Ovechkin has been baffling defensemen and goalies alike throughout his career with his impossible shot. He has been firing the one-timer from “the office,” inside the left faceoff circle, for his entire career and no one has found a way to stop it.
“A moment that is repeated over and over and that is knowing where he is going to be on the power play and still scoring the goal there,” Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “You know what he is going to do and you know where the puck is going and it is still in the back of the net and it is definitely a gift that he has."
“There is nobody that has ever been more dangerous than him in that spot on the power play in the history of our game,” Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said.
While Ovechkin’s power play one-timer is unquestionably his signature move, don’t take that to mean Ovechkin is a one-trick pony who is padding his stats with power play goals. He’s not, especially not this year.
Washington’s power play has struggled immensely this season. It ranks 14th in the NHL, but since December 1, it ranks 26th with only 16 power play goals in 32 games. Of Ovechkin’s 42 goals this season, only 12 have come on the man advantage.
And yet, Ovechkin remains the most lethal goal-scorer in the game, a reflection of how his game has continued to evolve throughout his career.
“I think he’s found other ways to use that release," Braden Holtby said. "The thing with him is he can get his shot off from all different types of places and, especially when you have [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Evgeny Kuznetsov] around and his ability to find those open spaces and those guys can put it in his wheelhouse, it’s a pretty dangerous combination.”
A dangerous combination that neither the top defensemen nor goalies know how to stop.
“I don't know how many times we've talked about where he likes to set up and how he likes to score and we still can't stop it,” St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “He's dynamic, he finds ways.”
“He’s also a guy that gets the puck off quick, and very hard,” Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Anderson said, “And it’s one of those shots it doesn’t seem like you really have a chance to react. Hopefully it hits you and it just overpowers a lot of goalies I think.”
Teams have been trying unsuccessfully to find a way to stop Ovechkin since 2005. It hasn’t worked.
Now in his 15th NHL season, the stats and accolades have piled up. One of the most important abilities of a great player is avail-ability and that is an aspect of Ovechkin’s career that has separated him from many of his peers.
The longevity and durability Ovechkin has showed throughout his career have allowed him to put up numbers once thought impossible in this era of hockey, and even bring hope that he could challenge Wayne Gretzky’s goal record of 894 goals, a record long thought to be untouchable within the hockey community.
“To me, it's crazy that he's even getting mentioned with Gretzky in this era of the hockey style that we're playing in now,” Tom Wilson said. “He's a machine. He's just one of the most motivated guys as far as scoring goals that I've ever met. It's pretty fun to be a part of.”
Gretzky shattered the previous record of 801 held by Gordie Howe by a whopping 93 goals. A player could score 44 goals every season for 20 years and still come up 14 goals shy of Gretzky’s 894. That’s how unbelievable his record is and why it was thought no one could touch it.
Everyone’s production falls off a cliff when they hit 30, right? You have to be an all-time great player to even talk about 894 as a possibility
That’s where we are already with Ovechkin.
“It’s impressive what he's doing,” Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid said. “He just seems ageless and just keeps on scoring goals. I don't see any reason he can't keep doing that.”
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