October heralds the return of hockey after a long, lazy summer. It is when every team and every fan hold the hope that this is the year they will know Stanley Cup glory. Getting off to a hot start – both individual and as a team – helps fuel that hope. Over the course of his career, Alex Ovechkin has done his best to spark and sustain that hope by filling the nets with pucks. Let us take a look at how he had done that.
October by the Numbers
Even with an 82-game regular season spread out over more than six months, there is no easing into the schedule. Alex Ovechkin has rarely been a victim of slow starts over his career. Here are some of the most noteworthy facts and numbers with respect to Alex Ovechkin’s goal-scoring performance in October:
- 103. Ovechkin has scored 103 goals in October over 14 years. He is tied with Dave Andreychuk for ninth place on the list of October goal scorers since 1979-1980.
- 72. Over 14 years, Ovechkin scored a goal in 72 different days in the October portion of the schedule.
- 8. On each of two dates of the October calendar, Ovechkin scored eight goals – October 21st ( in six games) and on October 20th (in four games).
- 2. On October 5, 2005, Ovechkin made his NHL debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets. After the Blue Jackets opened the scoring on a Dan Fritsche goal 6:53 into the second period, Ovechkin answered 28 seconds later with his first NHL goal. Fritsche scored again at the 10:22 mark of the period, but Ovechkin had the answer again, scoring his second NHL goal on a power play just 1:29 after Fritsche’s goal. The Caps went on to win in Ovechkin’s NHL debut, 3-2.
- 28. That two-goal game in his debut was the first of 28 multi-goal games from Ovechkin in October over his career. Six of them took place in 2009, his most frequent record of multi-goal games in the month.
- 2. Ovechkin has two October hat tricks in his career, both coming in the same year and coming in consecutive games. The first came on October 5, 2017, when he posted three goals against in Ottawa against the Senators in the Caps’ 2017-2018 season opener. He also had a successful shootout goal in the Caps’ 5-4 win. Two nights later, in the Capitals’ home opener against Montreal, he posted four goals (all of them recorded before the second period was over) in the Caps’ 6-1 win over the Canadiens.
- 100. On October 12, 2007, Ovechkin scored his 100th career goal, the Caps’ only goal in a 3-1 loss in New York to the Rangers. All of the goals by both teams in that game were scored in the first period, and all of them were on power plays.
- 20. On October 20, 2017, Ovechkin scored a goal 1:56 into overtime on a power play (he drew the penalty to set up the man advantage) to give the Caps a 4-3 win over the Red Wings in Detroit. It was Ovechkin’s 20th career overtime goal, breaking a tie with Jaromir Jagr for most career overtime goals.
- 14. Ovechkin scored 14 goals in October 2009, the highest goal scoring October of his career. That month included six multi-goal games.
- 27. Ovechkin has goals against 27 different opponents in October games over 14 years. He has yet to score an October goal against Anaheim, Arizona, or Los Angeles.
- 7. Ovechkin has seven goals scored against the Vancouver Canucks in October games over his career, most against any opponent for the month.
- 51. Ovechkin has victimized 51 different goalies in October over his career. Roberto Luongo was the most frequent victim, touched for seven goals by Ovechkin.
- 3. Ovechkin has three empty net goals in October. Tampa Bay (2007), Philadelphia (2009), and Dallas (2019) were the opponents.
- 48. Ovechkin has 48 goals scored on home ice in October. That ranks 12th in goals scored on home ice in October since 1979-1980.
- 55. Ovechkin’s 55 goals scored on the road in October rank third among all players since 1979-1980, trailing only Teemu Selanne (61) and Wayne Gretzky (58) on that list.
The Highlight Game
It would be the rare player who forgot his first NHL goal, and it would be the rare fan who forgot seeing one of the most anticipated debuts in NHL history feature not one, but two goals. When Alex Ovechkin took the ice for the first time in the NHL on October 5, 2005, against the Columbus Blue Jackets, it took him just 40 seconds to announce his presence, loudly. Columbus defenseman Radoslav Suchy was chasing the puck down in his own end with Ovechkin jumping past Adam Foote to give chase. As Suchy arrived at the puck along the end boards, so did Ovechkin, planting Suchy into the glass with a shoulder check that popped a support and loosened a pane of the glass out of its channel.
The physical part of Ovechkin’s game established, he got to work on applying the skills for which he was drafted in the second period. With Columbus clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute of the period, Dainius Zubrus hounded Rick Nash off the puck just inside the Columbus blue line, and Jeff Halpern picked it up for the Caps. Circling behind the Blue Jackets’ net, Halpern fed the puck to Zubrus, who circled out of the right win corner. As he was making his way out of the corner, Zubrus found Ovechkin alone between the tops of the circles. Ovechkin’s one-timer beat goalie Pascal Leclaire past the right pad, and Ovechkin had his first NHL goal, tying the game at the 7:21 mark of the period.
Later in the period, with the Blue Jackets back in front, 2-1, the Caps went to a power play. Working the puck around the perimeter, the puck found its way to Mathieu Biron at the right point. His shot was blocked by Leclaire, but he could not control the loose puck. Defenseman Adam Foote failed to clear the puck away, and Ovechkin darted in from the left wing circle to bury it past Leclaire 11:51 into the period to tie the game a second time. The Caps went on to win, 3-2, in a game of several firsts for Ovechkin – first NHL goal, first power play goal, first multi-goal game. They were by no means the last.