Alex Ovechkin

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Alex Ovechkin's mind is on his family, not chasing 50 goals or Gretzky's record

Alex Ovechkin's mind is on his family, not chasing 50 goals or Gretzky's record

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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Capitals' Alex Ovechkin wants the NHL to go straight to the playoffs when play resumes

Capitals' Alex Ovechkin wants the NHL to go straight to the playoffs when play resumes

The NHL season is currently on pause due to the coronavirus, but if Alex Ovechkin could have his way, the regular season would be over.

Speaking on a video conference on Thursday, Ovechkin was asked how the season should resume play once circumstances allow for it, specifically if the league should scrap the remainder of the regular season and go straight into the playoffs.

"It's hard," Ovechkin said. "First of all, we don't know when this coronavirus is going to end, right? I think [the Capitals] have 13 games left until the playoffs ... for us, it's better if the playoffs starts right now."

The league's pause has now lasted two weeks and every passing day brings with it more postponed games. The continued disruption the pause is having on the season will force the league to adjust its schedule in some way. For Ovechkin, eliminating the remainder of the regular season is a clear solution, even if it hurts his quest for history.

Washington has 13 games remaining in the season. Ovechkin sits just two goals shy of reaching the 50-goal mark for the ninth time in his career which would tie him with Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky for the most ever. Ovechkin could have easily shattered that mark as he is on pace for 57 total goals for the season.

Ovechkin is essentially advocating to miss out on the chance to reach another historical milestone. It is never guaranteed that a player will be able to score 50 goals in a season and, at 34 years old, the odds are stacked against Ovechkin being able to score that many goals again.

But Ovechkin has his reasons and it goes beyond just wanting to get to the playoffs as quickly as possible.

"We don't want to play those extra games," Ovechkin said. "But for different guys who fight for a playoff spot, some guys want those extra games."

In the current NHL standings, Washington sits in first place in the Metropolitan Division.  When you are in first, the only direction you could possibly go in the standings is down.

While Ovechkin did acknowledge more games would be better for the fans, he also stated the remainder of the season would be more beneficial to the other teams chasing the playoffs than it would be for Washington.

"Of course, the more games we play it's going to be better for the fans and it's going to be better for the teams fighting for the playoffs," Ovechkin said, "But I'd rather start the playoffs right away."

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How Alex Ovechkin is staying in shape while coronavirus pauses NHL season

How Alex Ovechkin is staying in shape while coronavirus pauses NHL season

Alex Ovechkin feels the same way most hockey fans do during this pause in the NHL season. He is thankful for the time at home, he is thankful for the time he gets to spend with his family, but he is also bored. After two weeks without hockey, Ovechkin is bored of the limbo the current season is now in.

“Me and my family in Washington, staying home, keeping busy,” Ovechkin told reporters on a video conference Thursday. “Lots of stuff to do at house. Play with the little one, we're expecting another one in a couple of months, I'm trying to do some more workout as well, but it's getting boring obviously. First week was kind of good thing. We're relaxing, we chilling and right now it's kind of getting boring right now.”

With the spread of the coronavirus, the NHL elected to pause the regular season on March 12. With 13 games remaining in the Capitals’ regular season, no one knows if and when the season will resume or what things will look like when it does. That means Ovechkin has to prepare like he is getting ready to continue the season or to start the playoffs and he has to do it with no definitive date for when that could happen.

To make matters worse, during this pause, players have lost access to their team’s workout facilities. Most gyms have also been shut down leaving some players having to get creative with how to stay in shape. New York Islanders captain, Anders Lee, who was also on the video conference, said he bought a Peleton bike and goes jogging with his dogs.

For Ovechkin, the timing of the league’s pause worked out well for him as his personal trainer, Pavel Burlachenko, was already in town for the playoff push.

“Last couple years before the playoffs, my personal trainer came to Washington and start workout with me before the playoffs to get ready for that period of the season,” Ovechkin said. “But with this situation, like he is here and I am lucky enough to have him here and we do some workout at the gym in my house. I have a small gym and we just go run on the street and play some soccer, ride the bike and just try to get busy, you know?”

The coronavirus has brought many unique challenges to professional athletes, but one of them is the fact that players are now left to keep in shape and work out on their own despite technically being in the middle of the season. The players cannot come together as a team to push one another. In that sense, having his trainer with him in Washington is invaluable to Ovechkin.

“You get used to being with the team, working out with the team all year and right now you are kind of by yourself and it is kind of hard to push yourself through that mode,” Ovechkin said, “Like you have to do that thing or a different thing. It is kind of hard. Somebody has to not push you, but to do all that stuff so he’s with me and sometimes I don’t want to do it but he says, ‘OK let’s go, we have to work out.’”

Players need that extra motivation at this point. The uncertainty of the coronavirus means no one is sure when they could return or what they are preparing for.

“It is always a good time to sit on the couch and watch TV and play with the kid,” Ovechkin said, “But you never know when the season is coming back and you have to be in shape, so again, try to do my best.”

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