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On the Historic Goal-Scoring Dominance of Alex Ovechkin

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Alex Ovechkin has been better than everyone else at scoring goals since he entered the League... a lot better.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
"The thing that keeps occurring to me when I watch Ovechkin now is ‘Don’t take this for granted,’ and that’s in part because I feel like I did — like we all did a bit — during his big years," wrote Jon Press of the Caps blog Japers’ Rink. "Now I try to soak it in. We’re watching one of the greatest goal scorers that’s ever played the game, an over-sized personality dominating a glamour-stat category. He’s as great and entertaining as sports figures get." - Washington Post, February 11, 2015

As he sits on the cusp of yet another 50-goal season - it'll be his sixth, a total only two players in the sport's history have surpassed - eye-popping stats regarding Alex Ovechkin's goal-scoring dominance are piling up nearly as quickly as the goals themselves.

And while the raw numbers are staggering unto themselves, it's not until you compare Ovechkin to his peers that you really get an appreciation for how special he's been. We've looked at how his era-adjusted numbers support the argument that he may be the greatest goal-scorer of all-time, and how he's neck-and-neck with the totals of the best non-Ovechkin goal-scorers since he entered the League. Speaking of "since he entered the League," Ovechkin has scored the most goals in the NHL since the start of the 2001-02 season.

"But wait," you say. "Ovechkin didn't enter the League until 2005-06."

Correct. Oveckhin spotted the rest of the NHL a three-year head start and has caught and passed each of them in goals-scored. In fact, Ovechkin's ten seasons in the League represent one of the most dominant goal-scoring seasons in history relative to the second-leading scorer over that span. Here's how that looks, with some other notable seasons labeled:

Ten-Year

Ovechkin's ten-season span (with a handful of games to go) is the 10th most-dominant in terms of raw goal differential (135) and 13th most-dominant in terms of his percentage lead over his runner-up (Ovechkin has scored 40.2% more goals than Jarome Iginla over the past ten seasons). If we limit our gaze to spans that only include the Modern Era (beginning with the 1967-68 season), those ranks go up to eighth and fifth, respectively. And he'd presumably be even higher if the League hadn't cancelled 34 games in 2012-13.

By percentages, the League hasn't seen sustained goal-scoring dominance like this from one player since Wayne Gretzky lit the lamp 41.2% more times than Mike Bossy from 1979-80 to 1988-89... and Bossy only played in eight of those seasons. The last time there was a gap like this with both players playing all ten seasons was Phil Esposito over Yvon Cournoyer, from 1968-69 to 1977-78.

Gretzky. Bossy. Esposito. Richard. These are the names now needed to contextualize Ovechkin's goal-scoring prowess (and take a moment to think about how many future Hall of Famers those greats could claim as teammates; who of Ovechkin's Caps cohorts is headed to the Hall?). Appreciate what you've seen and what you're seeing... because it'll be a long time before you see anything like it again.

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Data via Hockey-Reference: