It’s a question that Washington Capitals’ fans have been asking for quite some time now; can Ovechkin break Gretzky’s record? No one else thought it was possible, and in all honesty, fans of other teams probably laughed at the thought. But with the Caps no. 8 now at 658 goals, putting him 13th on the all-time scoring list, people are starting to take this seriously.
For Ovechkin though, breaking the record isn’t the most pressing concern. After finally taking the Caps over the hump for last year’s Stanley Cup win, the ‘Great 8’ has his sights set on back-to-back titles. And with their form returning in recent games, there’s a distinct possibility that the Capitals could go all the way.
After a bit of a slump that saw the Caps go on a 7-game losing streak, they’re looking good again. Interestingly though, it was without their star man that the team broke that streak. Ovechkin skipped the All Stars game and got himself the obligatory one-match suspension. But the team soldiered on and since his return has taken great strides towards the playoffs.
The Great 8 vs. The Great One
Caption – Wayne Gretzky in his heyday
But enough about the Stanley Cup, let’s get back to that record and the possibility that Gretzky’s seemingly unbeatable career tally could be in danger. So far, Ovechkin has scored those 658 goals in 1,082 games. And that was over 14 seasons. If you’re into your stats (what hockey fan isn’t), that comes out at .608 goals per game. And he’s already hit 50 for this season, which isn’t too shabby.
However, over the first ten years of his career, Ovechkin scored 475 goals at a rate of .625 per game. That’s pretty impressive, but his goals per game average has dropped in the last four seasons to .568 goals per game. If he wants to beat the record, he’ll have to work on that dip.
Gretzky’s record was set over 1,487 games at a rate of .601 goals per game. The ‘Great One’ had a great first decade in the game which saw him score at an incredible rate of .823 goals per game. That tailed off in the last ten years of his career. In fact, his scoring rate dropped to only .360 goals per game.
If Ovechkin stays fit and plays the same number of games as Gretzky, and maintains his current goal-scoring average, he could surpass the 900 career goals mark. Now, anyone who knows anything about hockey understands that there are a lot of ifs in that statement. Ovi’s chances of breaking that record depend on a lot of factors.
Ovechkin’s fitness is, of course, a concern, but that’s mostly down to age. He’s turning 34 soon and could, in theory, play on until he’s 38 or even a little older or possibly into his 40s. As for scoring goals, he’ll have to rack up at least 47 goals per season over the next five years which would put him at 39. But the man is a machine, and he could take a leaf from Tom Brady’s book and play on into his 40s. If that’s the case, then he could easily drop down to mid-30s for his season tally.
If anything, Ovechkin seems to be improving with age whereas Gretzky lost his edge after hitting his 33rd birthday. Did you know that he only scored 91 goals in his last five seasons in the game? Ovi, on the other hand, looks like he can’t stop scoring.
Still think that it’s impossible? Well, then think on this. Since he signed for the Caps way back in 2005, Ovechkin has averaged near enough 50 goals per season. That’s a phenomenal record that has already seen the Russian win the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy seven times. And while Gretzky holds a ridiculous number of NHL records, Ovi has quite a few of his own. He’s the only player to be named to the NHL All-Star Team in each of his first five seasons, and he’s the all-time highest scoring Russian in the NHL.
Ovechkin himself said that he’s not thinking about records, but if he keeps this up, it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t wonder if he can do it. Gretzky was an all-time legend but Ovi could be the one to match his goal-scoring feats. Pay attention folks; we could be watching history in the making right now.