Can Ovechkin score 50 goals in 50 games?

Can Ovechkin score 50 goals in 50 games?
December 11, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals off faceoffs and off deflections; from the high slot and from the goal line; on rushes from the left wing and rushes from the right.

Two years after people wondered if he would ever score 40 goals again, Ovechkin has people wondering if he can become the sixth player in NHL history to score the magical 50 goals in 50 games this season, a feat accomplished by Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky [three times], Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull.

Ovechkin has 26 goals in 29 games, missing two games with a right shoulder injury. To achieve the league-recognized 50 in 50, Ovechkin would need to score 24 goals in the Caps’ next 19 games.

He could also net an injury-interrupted 50 in 50 with 24 goals in his next 21 games, which is similar to what Jari Kurri, Alexander Mogilny, Lemieux and Cam Neeley did in their careers.

“Of course it would be nice to score that [many] goals in that [many] games,” Ovechkin said. “It’s really hard and it’s almost impossible to do it right now because the level of hockey is so high. You almost have to score every game or two a game to do that.

“We’ll see what’s going to happen. My job is to score goals. Every opportunity I have I’m going to try to put it in the net.”

Capitals coach Adam Oates, who played a big part in Neeley’s 50 in 50 season in 1993-94, said that if anyone can achieve the feat in today’s NHL, it’s Ovechkin.

“I think he has the capabilities of doing it,” Oates said, “with the guys he plays with and the minutes and the PP [goals], yeah.”

Ovechkin’s four-goal outburst Tuesday night not only gave him 26, five ahead of St. Louis Blues forward Alex Steen. His two power-play goals also gave him 138 in his nine-year career with the Caps, moving him past Peter Bondra and into first place on that list.

After the game Ovechkin received a phone call from Bondra.

“He just told me, ‘Leave me one record,’” Ovechkin said. “Shorthanded.”

Bondra still owns the record for shorthanded goals with 32. Ovechkin has four. But it’s clear that Ovechkin recognizes his place in Capitals history. His next goal will move him past Mike Gartner [397] and into second place on the Caps’ all-time goals list, leaving him 74 goals behind Bondra’s franchise record 472.

With 770 points, Ovechkin is also within striking distance of Gartner [789] and could pass Bondra [825] for first on the all-time list sometime next season.

“You always want to beat somebody, especially if you play for a club with a long time that has a history,” Ovechkin said. “You want to be part of history. You get to feel you’re going to be here a long time, maybe the rest of your life.”

When Ovechkin was asked the biggest reason for his goal resurgence, he gave several, noting the chemistry he’s developed with linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson; the improvements Oates has made to the power play; the ability of his teammates to find him in scoring areas; and his improved strength and conditioning under a new trainer.

Oates said one thing he thinks Ovechkin is doing “way better” is parking himself in front of the net 5-on-5, where he’s gotten goals off deflections.

“Are there more [scoring] opportunities out there? Yeah,” Oates said.

But if you ask anyone in the Capitals’ locker room, the No. 1 reason for Ovechkin’s goal-scoring spree is his famed shot and the fact he’s been able to get a league-high 156 of them on goal this season.

“He’s shooting the puck the best I’ve ever seen him shoot it since we’ve been here,” said defenseman Mike Green, who came into the NHL with Ovechkin in 2005-06. “It’s amazing how many shots he gets a game. With the accuracy and poise he has with his shots, it’s incredible how he picks those corners and you have to admire that.”

Green said he’s never seen a player able to shoot as hard as Ovechkin with the same kind of accuracy. Troy Brouwer says he’s seen only a handful of players who make opponents more tentative to block a shot than Ovechkin.

“[Zdeno] Chara’s one. [Shea] Weber’s one,” Brouwer said. “Ovi’s obviously one. That might give him a little more of an edge because those hurt. I’ve blocked Weber’s and Chara’s shots before and they don’t feel good and it’s not fun to go in front of them again.”