It’s happened before for Alex Ovechkin, who scored a hat-trick in the Washington Capitals 2015-16 season finale to hit the 50-goal mark. He has the chance to do it again Saturday when Washington closes out the regular season with a matchup against the New Jersey Devils.
“Everything’s possible,” Ovechkin said. “Just hit the net, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
After what was considered a low-scoring season for Ovechkin last year, one in which over half of his goals came on the power play, he has bounced back this season, packing a punch for Washington. He leads the league with 47 goals, and only 17 of them have come on the power play. Not only that, he’s also on his way to winning the seventh Rocket Richard of his career, and also hit the 600-goal mark and 1,000-game mark this season.
“I think Ovi is a guy that naturally just goes to the area either the puck’s gonna come or where the puck’s gonna be,” Oshie said of Ovechkin’s scoring ability. “A lot of it is very natural to him. He sees open ice and he gets there very quick.”
In addition to Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov have also had impressive seasons; Backstrom has hit the 60-point mark for the ninth time in his career and is one point away from another 70-point campaign, while Kuznetsov has had his best year statistically yet as the team’s second-leading goal scorer, racking up a career-high 27 goals and 82 points.
“[The star forwards] are the driving force,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “At the end of the day, it’s the core players that should be the producers. They’re the guys that are looked upon, they’re paid that way, they’re put in those positions to produce. They need to continue to produce and if they do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Capitals’ Main Focus on Playoffs
While Ovechkin said that he would want to hit the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his career, he stated that it’s not a priority for him; as the team heads into another postseason where they hope to make it further, he said that should be the primary focus going forward.
“We’ll see what’s gonna happen after tomorrow,” Ovechkin said. “Right now, our focus not on 50, our focus is on playoffs and being in shape, [not] getting hurt and that’s the most important thing.”
Linemate Tom Wilson agreed, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if Ovechkin put up a hat trick in the season finale, but that the team needs to redirect their attention toward the playoffs and finishing the year strong.
“I think there’s more important things,” Wilson said. “I can’t even count on my hands how many milestones he’s hit, so right now, it’s a team game. He might tell you too, it’s time to stop talking about Ovi and individual stuff, and you kinda wanna have a team game at this time of the year and that’s most important thing, individuals pushing forward and everyone pulling on the same rope. That’s important, all that individual stuff doesn’t matter.”
In the end, beyond the milestones, goal-scoring titles, regular season success, Ovechkin’s focus still lies upon capturing an award that he has not won yet in what has already been a Hall of Fame career.
“Most important thing is to win Stanley Cup,” Ovechkin said. “I wanna win.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.