Alex Ovechkin was asked last week in Philadelphia if netting 50 goals this season still mattered to him. At the time he had 43 goals with seven games remaining.
“Yeah, of course,” Ovechkin said. “... If I get it, it will be cool. But if not, that’s OK. I was there.”
Thanks to his two-goal performance in Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders, the Caps’ 30-year-old captain is now three goals away from becoming just the third player in NHL history to record seven 50-goal seasons (Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy).
Ovechkin has four goals in his last four games and is on pace to become the first player since Gretzky to lead the NHL in goals in a season his team led the NHL in points. Gretzky led the NHL with 62 goals in 1986-87. His Oilers led the league in points (106) that year and went on to win their third of five Stanley Cups. In fact, of the last four times a player has led the NHL in goals the same season his team has led the league in points, that team has gone on to win the Stanley Cup three times (Mike Bossy, 1980-81, Gretzky, 1983-84, Gretzky, 1986-87).
“I think his game is ramping up,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “If we’re going to do anything in the post-season it will fall on our top guys. You hear coaches say you need your best guys to be your best guys and if they’re not then you’re in trouble.”
In 837 regular season games, Ovechkin has averaged .62 goals and 1.15 points per game. In 72 playoff games, he has averaged .50 goals per game and .97 points per game.
Per @BenRaby31, today is the 12-year anniversary of the Capitals winning the 2004 draft lottery, which won them the opportunity to draft Ovechkin first overall in the 2004 NHL draft. Since entering the NHL in 2005, no one has produced more goals (522) or points (963) than Ovechkin. He now ranks tied for 34th (with Pat Verbeek) on the NHL’s all-time goals list, two behind Bryan Trottier.
Ovechkin said it seems like only yesterday that he was celebrating his 30th birthday and getting ready for the start of the 2015-16 season.
“Honestly, the regular season went fast,” he said. “It's unbelievable. I remember we came here and we did the testings and all that kind of stuff and right now we're talking about the playoffs and all of the success that we had this year.
“But right now we have to forget about all of these six months and we have to focus in game-by-game and day-by-day for the playoffs.”
With 117 points and three games remaining, the Caps still have a chance to surpass the franchise record of 121 points set in 2009-10. That team went 5-0-1 in its final six games of the regular season, but was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens in seven gut-wrenching games.
“The most important thing right now is that we exactly know we're going to be in the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “We feel comfortable, but the most important thing right now is that everybody has to be healthy and everybody has to be mentally ready for a tough run.”