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Silber: Ovechkin Defied All Odds To Hit 800. He’s Undeniably The ‘GOAT’

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has defied all odds to hit the 800-goal mark, and eras and numbers aside, established himself as the greatest goal scorer in NHL history.



Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin came into Tuesday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks needing three goals to hit the milestone of 800. It was no problem for the captain, who struck twice in the first and completed the hat trick in the second to accomplish something that'd only been done twice before: reach the 800-goal mark at the NHL level. And he did so by defying all odds.

Ovechkin has still managed to hit 800 in his 18th season despite missing out on what would have been his rookie year (82 games) and half of the 2012-13 season (34 games) due to lockouts. Not only that, the COVID-19 pandemic dipped into two seasons, taking away 30 more games over 2019-20 and 2020-21.

In total, Ovechkin has lost 156 total games due to outside circumstances. And, at his current goal-scoring rate of .61 goals per game, that's roughly 96 goals missing in those games lost. Taking that into account, that means that if the lockouts and pandemic didn't happen, Ovechkin could be ahead of Gretzky's 894 at this point, and he still has three years left on his contract.

Gretzky also dealt with a lockout and injuries over time, but he did not lose as many games as Ovechkin over his career, as the 1994-95 lockout still allowed for a 48-game season while he also missed just 70 games with injuries over his 20-year NHL career (104 total games lost). Ovechkin has missed 47 games due to injury, suspension, COVID protocol or personal reasons, and that also takes 29 more goals off the board and brings the total games lost counter to 203. Gretzky also hit his record mark through 20 seasons and has 182 more games than Ovechkin, who is at 1,305 games played so far.

And if Ovechkin played all of those games while scoring at his current pace, he would currently be at 923 goals and counting.

Those numbers speak volumes in the modern era.

“How I said, it’s a big number. It's the best company you ever can imagine since you started playing hockey, to be with Gordie, 800. I'm the third person who ever scored that many goals," Ovechkin said. "So how I said without my teammates, without organization, fans, my family, I would never get that numbers. And I would never talk to you right now about that numbers.”

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The game is faster. There's new technology. The goaltenders have better coaching, there's video and film review, the goalie equipment is bigger and with new developments in the ever-changing game, it becomes harder to score goals. And, at the same time, Ovechkin's aging.

However, none of this has weighed on him.

His shot is unparalleled, and it's not just his shot from the office that's gotten him this far. He has great vision, a knack for the net and the ability to create high-danger plays and finish his chances.

Also, let's break down the numbers.

Out of his 800 goals, 425 were scored in regulation at even strength, 292 were power-play goals (most all time), 53 were empty-netters, 25 were scored in overtime and five were shorthanded.

"He wants to score," Evgeny Kuznetsov said of his countrymate. "He already has 800. But he wants to score more."

Ovechkin's goals have come from hustling to be in the right place at the right time, capitalizing on the right bounces and showcasing talent and skill. When it comes to how "hard" the situations have been that allowed him to hit 800 goals, Gretzky still has three more ENGs than Ovechkin has, and since 3-on-3 overtime started, less than 10 of his OT winners have come from that style of play. So it wasn't necessarily an "extra boost" for him.

After scoring his hat trick in the Capitals' 7-3 win, Ovechkin hit the 20-goal mark for the 18th consecutive season. He has never had a season below that mark. If he hits 40 goals this season, he'd pass Gretzky for the most 40-goal seasons in NHL history. He is currently on pace for 53 goals this season, which would also give him the most 50-goal seasons of all time (10).

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In the big picture, Ovechkin needs two goals to pass Gordie Howe for second on the NHL's all-time goals list and 95 to break Gretzky's all-time record.

“I think once he’s gonna be No. 1, he can have a sense of relief," Anthony Mantha said of his teammate. "Till then, he’s on the hunt, and that’s what we love about him.”

Numbers aside, though, given Ovechkin's consistency, talent and the fact that arguably, he could be where Gretzky is had it not been for lockouts and COVID, he has cemented his legacy as the greatest goal scorer of all time. And there's plenty of time left to do more. Still, he's not getting ahead of himself.

"Let's take it step by step," he said after a nervous laugh.