Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals’ new franchise record holder for most games played, is eyeing two big milestones as the Caps enter the month of March. The first one, which should come very soon, is 600 career goals. The second one is 1,000 games played in a Capitals sweater.
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In Monday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ovechkin suited up for his 984th career game in a Capitals uniform, which passed longtime defenseman Calle Johansson (983) for the most games played in franchise history. Both players made their debuts at age 20, but the most impressive thing about this achievement was that it took Ovechkin under 13 seasons to reach that number while it took Johansson 14 full seasons after he played in 12 games with the Capitals after being traded to the team from the Buffalo Sabres in March of 1989.
This is in large part due to Ovechkin’s durability. Since his rookie year in 2005-06, he’s missed just a total of 29 games and has never gone a stretch in which he missed more than six games throughout his entire career. If all goes well, Ovechkin’s 1,000th career game will come on March 30, when the Caps play host to the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I’m getting old, you know?,” Ovechkin joked last Saturday after the Caps’ win over the Sabres.
In that Saturday win over the Sabres, Ovechkin came into the game needing six goals to reach 600. He scored twice in that game, reducing that number to just four.
Ovechkin added another goal to bring him to within three in Monday night’s loss to the Blue Jackets.
He didn’t score in the game the next night against the Ottawa Senators, which means his 600th goal will have to wait until sometime in the month of March. When he gets to 600, he will join some elite company. Ovechkin will be just the 20th player in NHL history to join the 600-goal club.
Just to name a few, Ovechkin will join the likes of Dino Ciccarelli (who spent three seasons with the Capitals), Bobby Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Mike Gartner (who spent nine and a half seasons with the Caps), Brett Hull, Gordie Howe and The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. There’s only two players in that group of 19 that are still playing hockey: Jarome Iginla (currently practicing with an AHL team) and the ageless Jaromir Jagr (who is most likely not returning to the NHL after leaving for a playing gig overseas).
“When you get closer, you wanna get it done earlier.” Ovechkin told reporters after the Capitals’ win on Saturday over the Buffalo Sabres.
The earlier that Ovechkin can get to 600, and possibly his last opportunity to do it at home, won’t come at Capital One Arena. Rather the opportunity will come on a stage much bigger than that. This Saturday night, the Capitals will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series over at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. Ovechkin would need to record a hat trick, something he did against the Maple Leafs earlier in the season. No grander stage than the great outdoors in front of 34,000 fans and a national TV audience watching to achieve this milestone.
If 600 doesn’t come outside, Ovechkin will have a chance to reach it across the country in California as the Caps will head to Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose for three games. If Ovechkin doesn’t notch his 600th goal out west, the Caps will be right back home on Monday, March 12 as the Caps host the Winnipeg Jets before having a back-to-back home-and-home affair with the New York Islanders on March 15 and 16. The first game will be in New York, while the latter will be back in D.C.. If Ovechkin can score three goals within his next 14 games, he could become the fourth player in NHL history to reach 600 career goals in under 1,000 games.
Caps fans, which game do you think Ovechkin will score his 600th goal?
By Michael Marzzacco