Alex Ovechkin has been arguably the best goal-scorer of his generation, setting numerous records via lighting the lamp, and has done it in every way imaginable, compiling goals both at even-strength and especially on the power play. But it’s the former that the Caps will need more of from their captain this season.
Ovechkin, who turns 32 on September 17, currently has 558 career goals. He is just two goals behind NHL great Guy Lafleur who he would tie for 25th on the all-time goals. When his NHL career wraps up, most fans believe the “Great Eight” will sit among the very best in the goal-scoring department; in other words, in the Top 10 or Top Five. To crack the Top 10 Ovechkin needs 132 more goals, to crack the Top Five he needs 173. If Ovechkin is able to maintain his usual 50 goals a season pace, those numbers should be easily attainable.
Last season, however, was a little different for the Russian superstar. There’s no way to beat around the bush, as it was in fact, a down season for Ovechkin. Scoring just 33 goals, it was Ovechkin’s second-worst goal total for his career, one better than the 32 he scored during the 2010-11 season.
One reason Ovechkin struggled last season was due to his even-strength goal total.
As mentioned above, Ovechkin has always been known for his power play scoring prowess. In his career thus far, Ovechkin has scored 212 power play goals, good enough for 12th all-time. Yet, as great as he has always been on the power play, it’s not something he has had to rely upon to score goals. Until last season, however.
Ovechkin scored 17 power play goals last season, while he scored just 16 goals at even-strength. If one takes away overtime goals while at even-strength (which is played at 3-on-3), he scored just 15 goals. That’s simply not enough for a player like Ovechkin. His 16 even-strength goals was by far a career-low. In 2012-2013, he also scored 16 even-strength goals, but that came on the heels of a lockout-shortened campaign, in which only 48 games were played. If one takes that season out of the equation, the next fewest even-strength goals Ovechkin scored in a season was 25, which he did twice in back-to-back seasons from 2010-2012.
As history shows, he would bounce back from his down seasons. He scored 38 goals in the 2011-12 season, and then proceeded to score 50 or more goals for three straight seasons.(Ovechkin scored 32 goals during the lockout-shortened season, but was on pace to score about 55 had it been a full 82-game season).
The Capitals are going to need history to repeat itself. They need Ovechkin to score more goals.
The reason for this is simple, the Capitals lost several key players this past offseason, including Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, who scored 48 combined goals. If one adds Daniel Winnik, who chipped in 12 goals on the fourth-line, that’s 60 goals that need to be replaced. Of the 60 total goals the Capitals lost from those three players, 50 of them came at even-strength. Someone has to make up for the offense lost this summer.
But one can’t just look at Ovechkin alone, other players have to step up as well. Players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored 19 goals last season, needs a few more. Andre Burakovsky needs to score more than 12 goals this season, and needs to avoid a long scoring drought like he suffered during the 2016-17 season. And of course, they are going to need young players to come in and help out as well, such as Jakub Vrana.
Yes, Ovechkin needs help scoring goals. If he is the only one scoring, the team isn’t going to get very far. But for the talented player he is, just over 30 goals isn’t good enough.
The amount of goals (33 total and 15 even-strength) Ovechkin scored last season was enough. The team was deep enough to score 261 goals, which was third-most in the entire NHL. But the Capitals lost a good amount of offense this offseason, and are going to need their franchise player and one of the best goal-scorers of all-time to score more than 33 goals and specifically, score more than 15 goals at even-strength.
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By CJ Witt