The Washington Capitals are close to clinching a playoff spot as they have won seven of their last 10 games and have now moved into one of the division spots. Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins have played one fewer game and could easily jump over the Capitals, they aren’t in danger of missing the playoffs. This would put the Capitals in the first wild card spot, but they are not in danger of missing the playoffs as they would be six points ahead of Ottawa is the first team to miss the playoffs. Much of the great play from the Capitals can be attributed to their captain, Alex Ovechkin.
In the Capitals shootout win against the Montreal Canadiens, Ovechkin scored his 51st goal of the season. Not only did he maintain his lead on the NHL goal scoring title, as Rick Nash scored early to cut Ovechkin’s lead to nine, but it was his 473rd as a member of the Washington Capitals. This moved him past Peter Bondra for the most goals in Capitals history. Ovechkin would add another one, and with that he moved into the top 50th overall in the history of the game. This will be exciting as even though he is 400 goals behind Wayne Gretzky, it isn’t too crazy to think he could make a legitimate run. Ovechkin currently averages 50 a season so that would require eight more seasons and that would make him 37 which is a reasonable age.
Over the past three games, Ovechkin has found his scoring touch again as he has scored five goals. He is the league’s best power play scorer as he has 24 power play goals and is the reason that the Capitals have the top power play in the league scoring close to 25% of the time. He is currently the only player in the NHL with more than 20 goals on the man advantage. Baring a remarkable scoring stretch by Nash or Stamkos, this will be the fourth straight season that Ovechkin has led the league in scoring and sixth time in his career. It is amazing to think that for over half of his career Ovechkin has led the league in goals scored.
It isn’t often that a goal scorer like Ovechkin comes along and when he does, he usually changes the identity of the team. Ovechkin has scored 50 or more goals six times in his ten year career. He would have had more than 50 goals in the lockout shortened season, as he ended the year scoring one and a half goals per game. Ovechkin is used to carrying the team as the Russian has led the Capitals in goals scored in every single season that he has played in.
The great thing about Ovechkin is that he has been able to stay healthy so the Capitals are getting the most out of him. Ovechkin and Crosby have had a long standing rivalry as they were first round picks on consecutive years. While many feel that Crosby is the better player, Ovechkin has had the more productive career by far. Over his 10 year career, the most games Ovechkin has missed in any season was 10 and that came from a couple of two game suspensions. He stays healthy and is only 29 years old so he still has a number of good seasons left in him before his play should start to decline.
Perhaps even more important than the play of Ovechkin is the guys who set him up. Ovechkin has the talent to take care of the majority of the work, but his job is made so much easier by the play of his line mates Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward. Backstrom is having one of his better seasons as he has 56 assists. Ovechkin has always had strong defensemen play behind him and it is continuing this season with John Carlson and Mike Green. Even at the beginning of his career, Ovechkin has been helped by the play of skaters like Alexander Semin and Dainius Zubrus.
The Washington Capitals should once again be one of the top offenses in the NHL and they have Ovechkin to thank for that. While some people around the league are starting to talk about Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos or the New York Islanders’ John Tavares as some of the better scorers in the league, they have a ways to go if they want that title. Ovechkin has so many NHL records in terms of the offense he puts out on a consistent basis that the conversation still has to start and end with him.