Alex Ovechkin remains an unstoppable, goal-scoring machine that even time itself can’t keep contained.
Folks, Alex Ovechkin has done it again. The Washington Capitals captain helped his team snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Tuesday evening, netting a hat trick in less than five minutes in the third period to secure a 4-2 comeback rally.
The trio of goals now moves Ovechkin to within two of hitting the No. 700 benchmark, a feat that would make him just the eighth NHL player in history to surpass that number. The incomparable Wayne Gretzky still sits No. 1 with 894 goals during his historic career, but Ovechkin is climbing ever so closer to that mark with each passing game.
Tuesday night’s hat trick puts Ovechkin at an even 40 goals on the season in 53 games, surpassing Boston’s David Pastrnak and Toronto’s Auston Matthews in one fell swoop. The Rocket Richard race will likely come down to those three by season’s end, with likely no clear winner in sight until the last day of the season unless Ovechkin has anything to say about it.
Ovechkin’s heroics on Tuesday night helped the Capitals get back in the win column. Though a loss to the lowly Kings wouldn’t have curtailed the Capitals playoff aspirations by any means, Ovechkin has carried the Capitals on his back over the last few games. In his last 10 games, Ovechkin has 16 goals and three separate hat tricks against the Kings, Devils and Islanders.
Since mid-January, no one in the NHL has come close to matching Ovechkin’s offensive production.
The numbers are staggering for Ovechkin. Only Gretzky himself has more 40-goal seasons (12) than Ovechkin (11) now after Tuesday’s offensive explosion. This season is Ovechkin’s only time he’s recorded four hat tricks in a season, with three of them coming in a three-week span.
Ovechkin started January with just 24 goals. He’s nearly doubled that total by Feb. 5.
There’s no doubt that Ovechkin is set to hit the 700 mark within his next few games. Even potentially during the Capitals next game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Goal scorers, by nature, are streaky creatures of habit. Points come in bunches and on hot streaks, then disappear for games at a time.
Coming into January, Ovechkin was on a 48-goal pace, a more average year for him. Now? Ovechkin is on a 61-goal pace that would track as the second-best in his career.
It’s hard not to reminisce on Ovechkin as the 700-goal milestone comes into view. The 34-year-old forward is defying the laws of time, playing at such a high level past the average hockey player’s prime years, and doing so while staying healthier than any forward in the modern hockey era.
Ovechkin is a freak of nature who scores many of his goals from the exact same spot on the power play, but also brute forces hockey games to bending to his design through sheer force of will. Players like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid are heralded as the best overall hockey players in the game, but there’s no better pure goal scorer than Ovechkin.
Even Gretzky, should Ovechkin play long enough, will likely see his career goal record fall within this decade. Realistically, Ovechkin needs four more seasons after this one at a mid-40 goal pace to surpass Gretzky. Considering Ovechkin has shown no real signs of slowing down yet, and how healthy he’s been in the past, it’s no longer an impossibility that Gretzky’s record won’t stand the test of time like many thought it would.
Hitting the 700 mark was only an inevitability for Ovechkin at this point in his career. However, the lead up to the milestone has been far more entertaining given the context of Ovechkin’s recent performance in the calendar year of 2020. Nothing has yet to stop Ovechkin in his quest to score the lights out in every season he plays, and it seems as if nothing will.
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