As Alex Ovechkin reaches 800 goals, his excellence is unparalleled

Date:

Remark

This is perfect. So, so Ovi. Only two players in history had ever scored 800 goals. That Alex Ovechkin used a hat trick to get there? Kiss from the chef, please.

Of all the things we’ve learned about Alexander Ovechkin in the 18 years since he started scoring goals for the Washington Capitals, perhaps the most important is that he will choose the most dramatic way to reach any milestone. He entered Tuesday night’s game in Chicago with three goals short of 800. He faced the Blackhawks along the way and then played three home games in a row. Get your tickets. Eight hundred had to be done at the corner of 7th Street and F Street.

Except it happened Tuesday night. No. 798 came 24 seconds into Tuesday’s 7-3 victory in Chicago. No. 799 came off a rebound eight minutes later. And No. 800 – think about that, 800! — came 6 minutes and 34 seconds into the third period, with Evgeny Kuznetsov buzzing and Ovechkin poised to strike. If he’s done it once, he’s done it 800 times.

So what’s ahead at the Capital One Arena – maybe Thursday night against Dallas, or Saturday night against Toronto, or certainly Monday night against Detroit – would be Ovechkin’s 801st goal, which would put Gordie Howe in second place in an NHL career. That pre-Christmas period – including a short trip to Ottawa and then a December 23 home game against Winnipeg – could very well include number 802, leaving Ovechkin with only Wayne Gretzky’s 894 ahead of him. Performance is like stocking stuffers at this point.

Alex Ovechkin scores 800th NHL goal, trailing Gordie Howe by one

It says something about this moment and this performance that instead of spoiling the moment, the fans at United Center in Chicago chanted, “O-vi! O-vi! O-vi!” He’s Ted Williams and Michael Jordan and whatever historical character you want to include in the conversation. There is no one who is inappropriate or out of place.

Some historical context: Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in the 2005-06 post-lockout season. This is not to say one is better than the other as Crosby plays center and Ovechkin is a winger and their jobs and responsibilities are different. In addition, Crosby has suffered concussions that have hampered his ability to play regularly. They have been held against each other for a decade and a half. They are different players.

But Ovechkin’s 800th goal is an opportunity to pitch his career against his peers. And the result is: there are none comparable. In 1,305 games since his debut, Ovechkin has scored those 800 goals. That is, of course, most among his peers. But it’s instructive to know that Crosby is second in that time. His totals: 534 in 1,137 games.

Drink in those totals. Crosby, an instant Hall of Famer who has won three Stanley Cups and two Hart Trophies as the league’s MVP, scored 0.47 goals per game – a fair amount. Ovechkin’s pace in the same period – that is, playing with the same rules in the same conditions – is 0.61 goals per game.

Essentially it is an anomaly if he goes two games in a row without scoring a goal. Yes, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl and Tage Thompson will almost certainly finish this season with more goals than Ovechkin. But it’s an easy guess that none of those players are 18 seasons into their careers scoring once every two nights. Not close.

This has been noted before, but it is worth repeating again now. Gretzky was a miracle, and there’s no denying what he accomplished in a career spanning two decades. But it is important to note that the career spanned from 1979-80 to 1998-99 in the NHL.

Included in that period: No season since World War II has resulted in more goals allowed per game than in 1981-82, when the average was 3.95. That year, Gretzky had a whopping 92 goals and 212 points. Video game numbers.

The Capitals’ screaming eagle jersey is back in black for the Reverse Retro reboot

That was the style at the time. According to hockey-reference.com, Ovechkin’s rookie year or 2005–06 yielded 2.92 goals per game, the next year 2.77, the following year 2.61. The point: Goalkeepers were bigger and better, and it was harder to score. Ovechkin scored anyway. In the last 20 years, 2015-16 (2.51 goals/game) and 2014-15 (2.52 goals/game) were the hardest to score. Those are Ovechkin’s ages 30 and 29 seasons respectively. In Gretzky’s corresponding seasons, the league averaged 3.56 and 3.35 goals against respectively. It was considerably more difficult to score in Ovechkin’s era, and he scored anyway. Again and again.

It’s also important to note that these goals aren’t just empty padding. They make sense. These injury-plagued Capitals got off to a lousy start. They have now won five in a row with Ovechkin as the engine. The playoffs were an assumption in the Ovechkin era. They can become a reality again as he continues to score in his greybeard years.

The upcoming dates at Capital One Arena should be filled with joy and anticipation. Ovechkin’s recent run – seven goals in the past four matches – is a reminder that anything is possible, at any time. He scored early against Chicago. He scored again in the first period. And if he can smell it, he delivers – the third goal, to reach 800, in the third period.

We’re not done here yet. His next goal ties Howe. The goal after that leaves only Gretzky. How to process everything? Alex Ovechkin has a feel for the dramatic and the legendary. Every game matters.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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