Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ovechkin Among Most Consistent, Durable, and Prolific Goal-Scorers of All-Time

Washington Post:
A 4-0 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins offered the best of both worlds. Ovechkin redirected Karl Alzner’s point shot past Fleury early into the first period, then blasted his typical power-play one-timer in the second, his 28th and 29th tallies of the season, respectively. He tied Peter Bondra for the franchise record with 93 multi-goal games.

“I just think when Alex is determined, the way he is, lately, he creates much good offense,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s dangerous. Every night you look at the stat sheet. If he scores or not, he’s got 10 shots. There’s guys in the league who go a month without 10 shots sometimes. I think he’s having fun … He’s been doing a really good job.”

Parse the statistics any way you please. His plus-12 rating leads all Capitals forwards. Whenever he skates at even strength, Washington records 54.1 percent of the total shot attempts, most among any skater with at least 500 minutes, per stats.hockeyanalysis.com. He should be regarded as a front-runner to win his third straight Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, and now leads all NHL skaters with 12 goals (and 15 points) in 12 games this month. No one his sniffing him either; Columbus’ Ryan Johansen ranks second, with eight goals in 11 games.

NHL:
Ovechkin's next goal, which he could score as soon as Saturday afternoon, when he and the Washington Capitals visit the Montreal Canadiens (1 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN, RDS, CSN-DC), will be his 30th this season. It will also be the 10th time he's reached 30 goals in his first 10 NHL seasons.

Four players in the history of the NHL have accomplished that: Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Mike Gartner. It is a feat of ability, consistency, durability and longevity. It is also an accomplishment that will buttress the case for Ovechkin in any discussion about the greatest goal-scorers of all time.

"I saw an Ovechkin goal [Wednesday] against Pittsburgh, and it seems to me that every goal or highlight of his I see is him scoring the same goal," Bossy said. "So he's scored a lot of those this year. I don't know how hard that shot was back then, but [Ovechkin's] was a lot harder than my one-timers back then. The equipment has changed; I don't care how big the goalies' equipment is, when you're taking a shot like Ovechkin took [Wednesday], it's going to go in."

To score 30-plus goals 10 straight seasons to start a career, a player must make an instant impact. Jaromir Jagr would be on the list, but he fell just short in his first season, when he scored 27 goals on a loaded Pittsburgh Penguins roster in 1990-91. The only active players to score at least 30 goals in their first NHL seasons are Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Skinner.

Ovechkin has been incredibly consistent. He led the League in shots on goal in eight of his first nine seasons, and scored on at least 10.6 percent of those shots in eight of nine.

Ovechkin has also been incredibly durable, something that derailed Crosby's and Malkin's chances of joining him on this list. He has missed 10 games or fewer in each of his first nine seasons, and four or fewer in all but one.

He has proven his ability to be an elite goal-scorer for a long period of time. Barry Trotz would be the fifth Washington coach under which Ovechkin has scored 30-plus, and it hasn't mattered when the Capitals changed systems and tried to alter their identity.

So where does Ovechkin currently stand in the company of the all-time great goal-scorers? He has a chance to break into the top 50 in goals in NHL history by season's end, though he'd need 24 more to do so.

He is sixth in goals per game at 0.62, and fourth among players who didn't retire before the end of the Great Depression. Bossy, Mario Lemieux and Pavel Bure are ahead of him, with Gretzky, Brett Hull, Bobby Hull and a tie between Steven Stamkos and Tim Kerr rounding out the top 10.

His 29 goals lead the League. Should he finish the season with the most goals, it would be the fifth time he's won the Rocket Richard Trophy in his career.

There hasn't always been a Richard Trophy to award, but there has always been someone who led the League in goals, or tied for the lead. If he wins another, Ovechkin would become the fifth player in NHL history to lead the League in goals outright at least five times.

Gretzky and Gordie Howe did it five times. Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito did it six times, with Hull tying for the League lead on a seventh occasion.

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