WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin joined even more rarified air this weekend becoming just the 8th players in NHL history to score 700 career goals. However, his Washington Capitals are 2-5-1 since Ovechkin’s sub-5 minute hat trick got him to 698 career goals on February 4, including being losers of six of their last seven prior to Sunday afternoon’s 5-3 victory over Pittsburgh. The team was 1-5-1 in the seven games between Ovechkin’s 698th goal and his 700th. This included 0-2 in the two games in which he did score during that span.
Sunday’s win was huge because it broke an 80 point tie between the two teams with Washington taking the 2-point, 82-80 lead in the Metropolitan Division. A loss would have put them 2 points back and extended the Capitals’ free fall to 5 games and six of their last last seven. Instead, the Capitals regained sole possession of 1st place in the Metro and their 82 points has them at 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, despite the recent failures.
Washington has fallen on a tough stretch, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 including 1-5-1 in the seven games between #698 and #700. This number also includes a horrid 1-3 in the four road games. Through 62 game this season the Capitals are 38-18-6 (82 points) with a two-point lead over the Penguins in the division.
Alex Ovechkin has exactly 20 games remaining and at his current pace of .6885 goals per game he would reach 814 by the season’s end. 814 would move easily move him past a man who’s number hangs in the rafters of Capital One Arena, Mike Gartner. The former Capital, a member of the NHL Hall of Fame Class of 1991, sits at 708. Next season, Ovechkin can easily move into 4th place by passing former Bruin Phil Espisito (717) former King Marcell Dionne (731) and Blues legend Brett Hull (741).
If he were to move into 4th place by the end of next year, he could become an unrestricted free agent and hit the open market around just 150 goals or fewer away from Wayne Gretzky’s once seemingly untouchable 894. There would be only two men standing between Oveckhin and Gretzky. One is another former Capital and one the few men to take Father Time the distance, Jaromir Jagr who amassed 766 goals in 18 seasons. The other is the immortal Gordie Howe who’s 801 makes him the only other person besides Gretzky to touch 800.
If Ovi hits at least his career average in goals (47) and continues his level of play going forward, he could potentially chase down and pass Gretzky near the end of the 2023-2024 season. He would be 38 years old at the time and in his 19th NHL season.
Ovechkin joined Howe (Red Wings) as one of only two players to ever score 700 goals all with the same team. What team Ovi will potentially pass the last three and reach 800 and beyond with? If you ask the Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis, he thinks Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will remain in Washington their entire careers, a rarity in the modern reality of professional sports.
“Alex is a very, very loyal person and so is Nick Backstrom and we want to create something where we’re in it together” said Leonsis. “Alex and I have spoken often about his career arc and the narrative and both those players have said they want to be different, they want to finish what they started, and they would like to be in this community for their entire careers. So we’ll work on that.
Ovechkin himself has said he has no desire to leave the only NHL team he’s ever played for, as well. “Of course I would love to stay in Washington, but I would say before, we’ll see what’s going to happen” the Capitals forward said. “I said I don’t want to play for a different team than Washington.”
One last thing to always keep in mind as Ovechkin continues to move up the list; he lost his entire first season in the NHL to the strike. This extra season that could have been in ’04-’05, considering the fact that in ’05-06 he scores 52 goals, it’s safe to say Ovi could have at least 50 more career goals if not for the work stoppage. Crazy to imagine him already in 4th place all-time at only 34 but alas “The Lost Season.”
Ovechkin faces Laurent Brossoit as he continues on his quest on Tuesday night (Feb. 25) when the Capitals host the Winnipeg Jets at 7pm.