WASHINGTON– Canadian play-by-play broadcaster Jim Hughson watched Alex Ovechkin shake hands with the Vegas Golden Knights last spring moments after winning the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The thought struck Hughson and he quickly relayed it to the audience at home. Everything Ovechkin had won before meant so little compared to the championship trophy he was about to receive. But in a staccato voice, Hughson recorded the hardware one after another.
“[Ovechkin] has won 15 NHL awards. The Rocket Richard seven times, the Calder, the Art Ross, the Hart, the Lindsay,” Hughson said. “In his 13thseason, finally the biggest award of all.”
Make it 16 awards now. Ovechkin added to his haul when the regular season ended on Saturday night when he was again on top of the NHL in goals scored with 51. That proved one more than Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, who had seven goals in his final seven games, but finished one shy of Ovechkin at 50.
The Rocket Richard is Ovechkin’s award. He has now won it eight times. The award itself has only been around since 1999, but the NHL has always kept track of who won its goal scoring title. It just didn’t have an official name. Ovechkin broke a tie with Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, who led the league in goals seven times in his career. In over a century no one has done it more often than Ovechkin.
After his own game against the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena on Saturday, a 3-1 loss, Ovechkin said he probably wouldn’t pay much attention to Draisaitl and the Oilers’ 10 p.m. game in Calgary. He would go out and have a nice dinner and “we’ll see what happens.”
What happened was Draisaitl scored in the first period, but spent the rest of the game chasing that elusive second goal. With Edmonton ahead late in a meaningless game for both teams – Calgary is headed to the playoffs, the Oilers are not – there came an opportunity to float a puck into an empty net. Instead, with 46 seconds to go his attempt was knocked out of the air at the last second by a high stick. He was that close to a share of the trophy that again is Ovechkin’s alone.
Ovechkin has also won the Calder (rookie of the year) in 2006, the Hart (MVP) in 2007, 2008 and 2013, the Lindsay (players’ choice MVP) in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and the Art Ross (most points) in 2008. He was nonchalant when asked about an eighth Rocket after the game. There are bigger things to win and he wants to repeat, he said. But he protested too much. This latest Rocket, at age 33, which could be his last, has great meaning to a proud player.
With eight 50-goal seasons, Ovechkin ranks behind only Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy, who had nine each in a much different scoring era. He needs just 42 goals to become the eighth player in NHL history to break 700. Gretzky’s record of 894 still seems a long shot, but who would bet against Ovechkin now? He is the fifth-oldest player to ever lead the NHL in goals at 33 and 201 days.
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