Since Santa Claus last wiggled down the world's chimneys, only two NHLers have scored at a higher point-per-game clip than the Caps' Alex Ovechkin - Detroit pivot (and assist machine) Pavel Datsyuk and Ovechkin's own teammate, Mike Green.
The charge has moved Ovechkin into second (and Datsyuk fourth) in the League in scoring behind Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, begging the question, "Can AO catch his stylist and win his second consecutive scoring title?" As with just about any question related to Ovechkin's ability, the answer is a resounding affirmative, but it won't be easy.
Even though Malkin has slowed to a point-per-game pace since Christmas, if the Russian trio mentioned above keeps up their respective post-Yule scoring rates, Geno will end the season with 106 points, narrowly edging out Ovechkin's and Datsyuk's 105 points apiece.
Twenty-two games or so isn't a great sample from which to take a scoring rate, though, so let's roll our start date back to November 6th, right after Ovechkin returned from his trip to Russia to say goodbye to his grandfather one last time. Not surprisingly, the top four in points per game since that date are also your top four scorers - Ovechkin (1.5 points per game), Malkin (1.37), Datsyuk (1.32) and Sidney Crosby (1.27) - and the difference between the top two there isn't enough for Ovi to catch Malkin with 25 games or so remaining (Malkin would end up with 114 points, AO 111 if those rates held).
So based on any scoring rates outside of those for, say, each guy's last game played (in which case AO will pass Malkin in four games and will end the season with 149 points), it doesn't look good for Ovechkin. What does look good, however, is Alex's remaining schedule:
- On the season, Ovechkin has scored at a 1.46 points-per-game rate at home and 1.24 on the road; 14 of the Caps' remaining 25 games are at the Verizon Center (including nine of the next ten).
- The Caps have two games remaining against the team with the worst goals against per game in the League (Toronto), four remaining against second-worst Atlanta, and single games against the third- and fourth-worst (the Isles and Avs).
- Regarding those four games against the Thrashers, Ovechkin has positively torched Atlanta throughout his career (44 points in 26 games).
- Three more games against Tampa (against whom AO has six points in three games thus far in 2008-09) and Carolina (seven in three)? Yes, please.
The Caps have one game in hand on the Pens, and Malkin has an eight-point lead in the scoring race. Pittsburgh will be leaning on their stars as they fight for a playoff spot, while the Caps are more or less on cruise control (both situations, of course, could cut either way in terms of individual player production).
So can Alexander Ovechkin catch Evgeni Malkin and become the first repeat Art Ross Trophy winner since Jaromir Jagr in 2000-01? It should be an interesting race to watch as we prepare ourselves for the postseason, but I'd answer with another question - has anyone made any money betting against Alex Ovechkin?
Update: Not Ilya Kovalchuk, apparently.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Pierre McGuire has Mike Green making the Canadian Olympic Team (speaking of the Olympics, check out this pic from three years ago today)... Even someone who's been punched in the head as many times as P.J. Stock has (must see video here) knows AO is the League's MVP.... Fresh power rankings out, with the Caps up one to third at CBSSports.com and The Hockey News, holding at fifth at Sportsnet.ca, down one to fifth at SportingNews.com, and holding at second at ESPN.com.... Nice Mike O'Connell quotes on his now-former record.... Gould Old Days sent along this random clip from a Barenaked Ladies show (mp3) to demonstrate that this wasn't the first convergeance of the Caps and Fleetwood Mac.... Finally, Nokia is getting its ass kicked by Apple in the smartphone market, so they've launched a new app store with a winner of a name (h/t Scott).