When Alex Ovechkin ripped off a pass in his defensive zone, floored the gas down to the other end of the ice, and tucked a backhander past San Jose Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones’ stickside last night, he moved into 20th place on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list. He also scored his 20th goal on the adolescent season, which made him the League’s first skater to breach that mark in 2017 (surprisingly only the second time Ovi has claimed this specific accolade).
All of that underlines the obvious: Alex Ovechkin is once again having a pretty good goal-scoring year. Plenty of words have been written during the extended tenure of Ovechkin’s excellence, of which we are greatly privileged to still be witnessing, and these do a fine job of cogently arguing that he may be the best goal scorer in NHL history, accounting for the scoring variance from one hockey epoch to the next.
So while Alex Ovechkin will likely be a central character as the Rocket Richard drama unfolds down the stretch, rather than hold him against his contemporaries, let’s take a look at how the Great Eight stands up against the player he’s most often compared to: his former self.
The following plot demonstrates Ovi’s cumulative goal total over time by season, with the current season highlighted in red, and his Rocket Richard winning seasons called out in blue:
(Data via Corsica)
Through 28 games in his career, Ovi has only accrued greater than 20 goals twice, and had another season in which he notched exactly twenty. He won the Richard in 2 of those 3 seasons.
Perhaps most impressive about his start to the 2017-18 campaign is how he’s revitalized his scoring at even strength, where his production has generally been in slow decline... before this year, anyway.
Ovi is currently on pace for 41 even-strength goals on the campaign, and 58 total, which would both be second-best among his esteemed body of work. It would also be the first 50+ goal-scoring season by a player 32 or older since 2005-06 when Jaromir Jagr did it on Broadway... and only the fifth in League history.
All of this would probably be contingent on Ovechkin maintaining the highest shooting percentage of his career on the lowest five-on-five shot-attempt rate of his career, which is optimistic at best, and approaching delusional at worst. Regardless, Alex Ovechkin is well on his way to authoring yet another spectacular chapter in his superlative goal-scoring career.