Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin is scoring goals and reaching new milestones at a remarkable pace. With 14 tallies in the past seven games, the Capitals’ captain finds himself just two goals shy of becoming the eighth member of the NHL’s 700-goal club.
In the past three weeks alone Ovi has risen from 12th to 8th on the all-time goals list, surpassing Hall of Famers Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Mark Messier. Ovechkin has already hit the 40-goal plateau for the 11th time in his brilliant career and is quickly closing in on a ninth 50-goal campaign.
With two games left on the Capitals’ current homestand, fans are eagerly anticipating another memorable night at Capital One Arena. Ovi will get his first shot at joining the 700-goal club on Saturday against Philadelphia and, if necessary, he’ll get another one on Monday when the Islanders come to town. Whenever he does reach the mark, it will become just the latest in a long line of historic nights that Ovechkin has enjoyed throughout his 15-year career.
First Game, First Goal
The Great Eight began his NHL career on Oct. 5, 2005, when the Washington Capitals opened the 2005-06 campaign on home ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He made his presence known just 40 seconds into the game, launching a big hit on Columbus defenseman Radoslav Suchy. The hit knocked one of the stanchions from the glass and put defensemen around the league on notice.
Midway through the second period, Ovechkin found himself all alone in the slot and hammered a one-time feed from Dainius Zubrus past Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire for his first goal in the NHL. Just over four minutes later, Ovi snuck down from the half-wall and buried a feed from Jeff Halpern for his first power-play marker in the big leagues. Ovechkin finished the night with two goals and five shots in a dazzling NHL debut.
The Century Mark
Ovechkin scored 52 goals in his rookie season and followed that up with 46 goals in his sophomore campaign. Despite the personal success, Ovechkin was unable to elevate Washington out of the basement of the Southeast division. That all changed during Ovechkin’s third season in the NHL.
In the fourth game of the 2007-08 season, Ovechkin took a feed from Mike Green, turned a Rangers’ defenseman inside-out, and beat Henrik Lundqvist for his 100th NHL marker. The goal was the second of 65 that Ovechkin would score on the year. He finished the season with 65 goals, 47 assists, and a career-high 112 points. Ovechkin cleaned up at the NHL Awards that year, taking home four trophies including the Art Ross and his first Hart Trophy. He also led the Capitals back to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
First Goal in the Playoffs
Ovechkin arrived on the playoff scene with a bang on April 11, 2008. In Game 1 of the opening round, the Capitals squared off with the Philadelphia Flyers in an entertaining affair. The third period began with the Capitals down 4-2. Washington defenseman Mike Green started the comeback with two goals early in the frame, the second of which was set up by Ovechkin. Then with four minutes left, Ovi stripped a Flyer defender and roofed the puck on a sprawled out Martin Biron for one of the most memorable goals of his career.
The goal lifted Washington to a 5-4 Game 1 victory. However, Philadelphia would go on to win the series in seven games, while Ovechkin finished his first playoff run with four goals and five assists.
Ovechkin Passes Fedorov
There have been many prolific Russian snipers to make their way to the NHL. Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny, Pavel Bure, and Alexei Kovalev all made their mark in North America, dazzling fans with a unique blend of speed and skill. Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin have spent much of the past 15 years doing the same, while Vladimir Tarasenko and Nikita Kucherov represent the next wave of Russian superstars.
However, none of those players have been able to accomplish what Ovechkin has throughout his time in the NHL. On Nov. 19, 2015, Ovechkin cemented himself as the greatest Russian-born scorer, passing Fedorov with his 484th goal. He accomplished the feat against the Dallas Stars on home ice, burying a feed from Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin would later go on to pass Fedorov on the all-time points list and further cement his legacy at the top of Russian hockey.
On Jan. 10, 2016, Ovechkin became the 43rd member of the NHL’s 500-goal club. At 30 years of age, Ovechkin was the fifth-fastest player to reach the milestone in league history, doing so in his 801st game. Goal #500 came in typical Ovechkin fashion from his office on the power play.
After the goal, Ovechkin was mobbed by his teammates in celebration. He would go on to add another goal in the third period as the Capitals blew out the Ottawa Senators 7-1.
1000 NHL Points
Almost a year to the day after scoring his 500th goal Ovechkin knocked off another big milestone with his 1000th point. Just 35 seconds into a home date with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ovi flew down the wing and rifled a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Caps on the board.
With the goal, Ovechkin became the 84th member of the 1000-point club and the 37th player to do it all with the same team. Ovechkin added another goal later in the game in a 5-2 Capitals victory.
600 and Counting
On March 12, 2018, Ovechkin knocked off another milestone and once again he did it in Washington in front of the hometown fans. With the Winnipeg Jets in town, Ovi scored his 599th goal on a first-period power play. That set the stage for some more heroics in the middle frame.
Four minutes into the second period, Ovechkin knocked home a bouncing puck to join the 600-goal club, becoming just the 20th player to do so. He was also the fourth-fastest player to reach the milestone, skating in his 990th game. Only Gretzky, Lemieux, and Brett Hull reached the mark in fewer games than Ovechkin.
First in the Final
Despite all the accomplishments and accolades, one milestone evaded the Great Eight for much of his career. It took 1,004 regular-season games and 117 playoff contests, but on May 5, 2018, Ovechkin finally recorded his first goal in the Stanley Cup Final. Ovi buried a feed from Backstrom on a powerplay early in the second period to give Washington a 2-1 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Final.
The Caps held on late to win the game and went on to defeat the Golden Knights in five games to capture their first Stanley Cup. Ovechkin finished the series with three goals and two assists and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for his play throughout the 2018 postseason.
More on the Way
The hockey world will be eagerly watching as Ovechkin sets his sights on goal 700 in the coming days. After that, only seven men will stand in the way as Ovechkin attempts to reach the top of the all-time goals list. While many have predicted that Ovechkin would start to show signs of a decline by now, he appears to be doing the opposite.
It took Ovechkin 189 games to go from 500 to 600 goals, but just 147 games to turn 600 goals into 698. His current run of 14 goals in seven games also happens to be the best stretch of his career. Ovechkin’s recent dominance is giving Capitals fans more and more hope that Gretzky’s record could be in danger, even though its still 196 goals and a few more milestones away.