WASHINGTON, D.C. – Local sports media in the “District of Champions” had already dubbed the last month and a half of the Washington Capitals’ season as “The Chase for 700,” in reference to Alex Ovechkin’s pursuit of his 700th career goal.
At the start of that stretch on Jan. 7, “The Great Eight” had 682 career goals heading into Washington’s first bout of the season with the Ottawa Senators.
18 goals and 17 games later, Ovechkin has reached a career milestone only seven other National Hockey League players have hit before:
Mike Gartner (708), Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741), Jaromir Jagr (766), Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky (894). All Hockey Hall of Fame members, so, it’s safe to say he’s entered elite company.
But with 21 games left in the 2019-20 campaign, Ovechkin’s goal-scoring pace – which currently has him finishing with 56 goals – would most surely see him passing Gartner and threatening Esposito as well.
Ovechkin has already locked up his spot in the Hall of Fame but Saturday’s score against New Jersey memorialized him as the greatest goal scorer of our generation.
Scoring his 42nd goal of the season, Ovechkin has a good shot at claiming his record-ninth Rocket Richard trophy. He currently trails Boston’s David Pastrnak (43) and Toronto’s Auston Matthews (43).
But Ovechkin isn’t an accolades-based player. He’s proven that he plays for the love of the sport and is laser-focused on raising the Stanley Cup for the second time with the Washington Capitals, the team that drafted him in 2004 and saw him raise the cup for the first time in 2018.
The Caps currently sit 10 points behind the league leading Boston Bruins and are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan division with 80 points.
Unfortunately, Ovechkin’s monumental achievement is heavily shadowed by the Caps’ recent struggles having lost 6 of their last 7 games, including their 3-2 fall to Jersey on Saturday.
Not to mention Ovechkin only just scored goals number 699 (Thursday vs Montreal) and 700 after a five-game scoring drought.
If they can address the looming issues of the team’s poor play, clinching a playoff spot shouldn’t be a problem for the Capitals going into the final stretch. But fans are certainly relieved to see the this milestone behind Ovechkin and the team so they can get back to business as usual.
Ovechkin has one more year left on his current contract and with his closest teammate, Nicklas Backstrom, having signed a five-year extension this season, a four-year deal could be on the horizon. Barring injury, Gretzky’s 894 goals is realistically becoming clearer in his cross-hairs.
It took Ovechkin 15 fewer games than Gretzky to go from goal 600 to goal 700, in fact, he’s the fastest in NHL history to do so.
Being the second fastest player in league history to reach the 700 goal plateau, behind Gretzky of course, Ovechkin hit the mark one year and one day after scoring his 650th.
Whether he can break Gretzky’s legendary record, we’ll have to wait and see but there was a time when no-one believed Gordie Howe’s 801 goal marker could be touched either. Sit back and enjoy history, folks.