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Alex Ovechkin broke the longest goal drought of his career on Tuesday night, scoring at 5-on-5 against the Minnesota Wild. Before that, he’d gone 10 games without a goal, and the fact that that’s the longest dry run of his career is pretty astounding.
In fact, even in the past five years, when he aged into his late 20s and then early 30s, he’d never gone more than six games without scoring. That’s bonkers.
The thing with Ovechkin is that he’s a total freak. The Ovechkin Spot has been a very real thing since he came into the league, and this is the first year in a very long time it hasn’t worked for him to a shocking extent. Ovechkin makes his goals through both deadly shooting accuracy and an insistence on shooting the puck. He’s led the league in shots on goal 10 times in 11 completed seasons (he’s probably not going to do it this year, but he’s still at 252 in just 68 games, the kind of number even elite shooters don’t hit in 82).
This will be only the third full-82 season of his career in which he didn’t score at least 46 goals, but the fact that he’s basically guaranteed to also hit 30 again indicates just how good he is and has been.
So not to get too much of a career retrospective going here, but I just like to think about Alex Ovechkin shooting and goal stats sometimes, so here we go (with a huge thanks to the indispensable Hockey Reference for allowing me to dig through all these numbers):
8. Leading the league in shots, a lot
As mentioned above, Ovechkin had the most shots on goal in the NHL from every year from 2005-06 to 2010-11, then again from 2012-13 to last season. Either one of those runs would be the longest individual streak in which any player led the league in shots on goal by season.
The only other time anyone even did it four times in a row was when Phil Esposito did it from 1970-74.
And by the way, while Ovechkin’s 528 SOG is the gold standard in anything we can call modern hockey, the all-time single-season leader is that 1970-71 season for Esposito: he had 550 that year.
7. Will he get there?
But as prolific as Ovechkin is at shooting the puck, he’s only 15th in league history in total shots on goal.
Right now, Ovechkin has nearly 4,500 career shots, but he’s a long way from the NHL record. That’s held by Ray Bourque, who both played forever and was a shot-volume monster as well.
The record is 6,206 shots.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Ovechkin clears 300 shots once again this season. Let’s say that’s the benchmark. Probably gets him into the neighborhood of being 1,675 shots short of the all-time mark. That means he has to have another five seasons exactly like this one to approach Bourque’s record.
That’s pretty crazy to think about.
6. Clearing 300 shots
Man, 300 shots is a whole hell of a lot to put up in a single season. Ovechkin does it literally every year they play the full 82.
He and Bourque already sit atop the all-time leader board with 10 seasons of 300-plus shots, and Ovechkin will almost certainly surpass that number this year.
No current NHLers are likely to even come close to hitting that number; Jaromir Jagr is the only guy even in the top-10 right now, and he only has five.
Ovechkin’s lead on the entire history of hockey (well, shot stats only go back to the late ’60s, but you see what I mean) is only going to keep growing.
5. Hats off
Here’s a wild one for ya: Ovechkin leads all current NHL players in career hat tricks. He has 16.
Jaromir Jagr, who has been an elite player forever and started his career 15 years before Ovechkin, is one short of that mark.
However, he’s still got a long, long way to go to match Wayne Gretzky (50) or even get into the top 15 (Pavel Bure and Darryl Sittler are tied at 20). He probably won’t do it. Which just goes to show you how different today’s game is than the era when most of these guys played.
So the fact that Ovechkin is even sniffing that number? That’s amazing.
But what about four-goal games? Ovechkin’s done it three times. That ties him for fifth in league history. No current player meets that number.
However, it should come as no surprise that Mario Lemieux is the big leader here, with 11. And isn’t it weird that Gretzky only had one game like this in his career?
Also worth noting, though, that Ovechkin isn’t even the current leader in most goals in a single game. Who can forget Marian Gaborik’s five-goal performance in 2008? Or when Johan Franzen (no longer a current player, I realize) did it in 2011?
4. Speaking of individual games…
The NHL record for most shots in a single game is held by, who else, Ray Bourque. With 19 against the Quebec Nordiques on March 21, 1991. Nineteen! In fact, Ovechkin isn’t even second on this list, because there was a game against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 when Marian Hossa put 16 on net (and only scored once, but then again, so did Bourque).
Ovechkin one-ups them easily: He had two 15-shot games. He’s the only guy to ever clear 14 in a game more than once. And in one of those games, Ovechkin went 0 for 15. In the other he went 2 for 15. So, hooray.
In fact, Ovechkin is the league’s all-time leader in 10-shot games, and it’s not close. He’s done it 45 times — good lord! — and Brett Hull comes in second with only 21. Bure’s the only other guy to hit 20.
And how about this: If you put together all the 10-shot games from non-Jagr current, you need to combine Brent Burns (four); Evander Kane, Rick Nash, James Neal, and Max Pacioretty (five each); Jeff Carter (six); Evgeni Malkin (seven); and Eric Staal (nine), to come out even one ahead of Ovechkin’s career total.
3. What about no shots?
But okay, you know Ovechkin is a beast when it comes to shooting the puck. But what’s amazing is that less than 1 percent of all his games in his entire career have seen him held off the shot list altogether.
He has just nine games without a single shot on goal. Bourque, the career leader in shots on goal, didn’t register a shot 580 times.
That’s a fairly big gap, even if you account for the fact that of course it would be harder for a defenseman to get it on goal than a forward.
2. Accounting for the era
And let’s not forget, Ovechkin’s 553 career goals already put him No. 27 on the all-time list, and he’s just three back of Johnny Bucyk. But what you have to keep in mind is that Ovechkin also plays in the most difficult goalscoring era in the history of hockey.
But when you adjust for the scoring of the era, Ovechkin obviously catapults up the list. All things being equal, he would likely have 637 goals in an era-neutral scoring environment, putting him 14th on the all-time list already. However, he’s still only third among active players, trailing Jarome Iginla (sixth at 704) and Jagr (second at 841).
For the record, era-adjusting goalscoring heavily penalizes Wayne Gretzky, who drops from first by a mile to third. Gordie Howe moves up to No. 1.
1. Hitting the mark
Given the era situation, that’s why it’s so crazy that Ovechkin is No. 3 on the career list of 50-goal seasons, with seven. He trails only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy, both of whom have nine. No other current player has more than three (here, too, it’s Jagr).
The unfortunate thing is that Ovechkin probably doesn’t have it in him to match Gretzky or Bossy. Even with the 300-plus-shot volume, and even if we assume that this year he’s just having a little bit of bad luck (he’s shooting 10.7 percent versus his previous career average of 12.4), the days of Ovechkin winning the Rocket Richard are probably behind him.
But given his game, you never know. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit No. 8 next year, would it?
Speaking of the Rocket Richard, they only started awarding it in 1998, but Ovechkin’s won it six times. No other player did it more than twice.
But in terms of year-by-year goal leaders, Ovechkin is currently tied with Esposito for second-most seasons at the top of the goals list. He’s one behind Bobby Hull. But that also puts him one ahead of both Gretzky and the guy the award is named after.
So that’s pretty good.
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