From the moment Alex Ovechkin was drafted by the Washington Capitals as the number one overall pick in 2004, the “Great Eight”, as the fans have called him, has emerged into a superstar in our nation’s capital. Two years ago, Ovechkin was chasing the milestone of 500 career goals. Now the Capitals left winger is closing in on 600 career goals. But the road this time around was a bit more of a challenge.
Jan. 10, 2016 was the date that his 500th goal occurred. It came on a Sunday night at Capital One Arena (called the Verizon Center at the time) on the same day the Redskins hosted a playoff game with the Green Bay Packers. Despite a big Redskins game still going on up the road in Landover, Maryland, there was still a packed house at the Capitals game vs. the Ottawa Senators. The big 500th happened in the second period and Ovehckin would later get his 501st.
Since that magical night, Ovechkin scored 24 goals to finish off the 2015-16 campaign with 50 goals. It was the seventh time in Ovechkin’s career he scored 50 or more goals in a season. The following season would be a “down” year for Ovechkin, as he scored 33 goals. But there was one big moment.
With the Capitals hosting Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 11, Ovechkin was sitting at 999 career points. In front of of a packed house of Caps fans, including one who traveled all the way from Western Canada, Ovechkin wasted no time right after the puck was dropped. He flew down the ice and put one past Marc-Andre Fleury for his 1,000th point.
Nonetheless, the 33 goals scored that season was the second-lowest of his career (excluding the lockout-shortened 2013 season). 16 of Ovechkin’s 33 goals came at 5-on-5 which was his lowest even-strength mark in a non-lockout season.
Just weeks after the season ended, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan talked with reporters and said he wanted to see some improvement in the offseason workouts for his captain.
“The game is getting faster. He’s going to have to train in a different way, a more speed way than a power way. He’s going to have to make adjustments to stay relative in the game,” said MacLellan.
Ovechkin had some fun in the offseason but in between all the fun he had from dressing up like Darth Vader to marrying his fiancé Nastasiya, Ovechkin was working hard both in the gym and on the ice to elevate his game. Ovechkin even had a personal visit from Barry Trotz himself.
Сегодня была восстановительная мануальная процедура в подготовке Александра Овечкина @aleksandrovechkinofficial к новому сезону 2017-2018 National Hockey League, NHL . #kinesiotaping #ktai #нхл #nhlhockey #nhl20172018 #physicaltherapy #physiotherapist #kinesio #физиотерапия #мануальнаятерапия #кинезиотейпирование #кинезио #кинезиотейп #хкдинамомосква #кинезитерапия #hcwashingtoncapitals #mulligan #физическаятерапия #овечкин #хоккей #ovechkin #alexovechkin
Ovechkin arrived in DC during the tail end of August and began working out at Kettler Capitals Iceplex a few weeks prior to training camp, further signifying his commitment for a much better season.
Look who’s back pic.twitter.com/QqL9NPOHWv
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) August 29, 2017
His speed that he showed in the workouts would be shown to the rest of the hockey world at the very beginning of the season, as Ovechkin recorded hat tricks in the first two games of the season, the first time in a century an NHL player has recorded back-to-back hat tricks in the first two games of a season.
Ovechkin added another hat trick on Nov. 25 in Toronto and as of Friday Dec. 29 has posted 24 goals through 39 games, just nine shy of his season total from last year. 17 of those 24 goals came at even strength which bypasses last season’s 5-on-5 number (16). He currently sits at 582 goals needing just 18 more for 600. At the pace he’s going at right now, including a goal in Thursday night’s win over the Bruins, don’t be surprised to see him net his 600th sometime in January or February.
By Michael Marzzacco