Advertisement

Stu Cowan: There's no sign of Capitals star Alex Ovechkin slowing down

He might look like an old-timer at 36 with his grey hair, but don't bet against him breaking Wayne Gretzky's career record for most goals.

Article content

When Alex Ovechkin takes off his helmet, he looks like some of the guys I play old-timers hockey with because of his grey hair and beard.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

At age 36, Ovechkin qualifies for old-timers play, but the Washington Capitals’ scoring machine is far from old.

Ovechkin is in third place in the NHL scoring race after picking up three assists in the Capitals’ 6-3 win over the Canadiens Wednesday night in Washington. Ovechkin now has 15-18-33 totals in 20 games and trails the Edmonton Oilers’ dynamic duo of Leon Draisaitl (20-20-40) and Connor McDavid (14-22-36) in the NHL scoring race. Draisaitl is 26 and McDavid is 24. Draisaitl is the only player in the NHL with more goals than Ovechkin.

Apart from his hair, Ovechkin doesn’t seem to age. He’s sort of like Tom Brady on skates — minus the perfect hair the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 44-year-old quarterback still has.

That’s why there’s a good chance Ovechkin could break Wayne Gretzky’s record for most goals in an NHL career.

Ovechkin has 745 goals and ranks fourth on the all-time list behind the Great One (894), Gordie Howe (801) and Jaromir Jagr (766). One of the most amazing stats in hockey is that if you eliminate all of Gretzky’s goals, he still has more points than any NHL player because of his 1,963 assists, 42 points ahead of Jagr with 1,921.

Ovechkin is in the first season of a five-year, US$47.5-million contract and needs 150 goals to pass Gretzky. He’s on pace to finish this season with 62 goals, three below his career high set in 2007-08.

Are you going to bet against him?

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Speaking of contracts, last season marked the end of Ovechkin’s 13-year, US$124-million deal.

“I’m a risk-taker,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said after signing Ovechkin as the cornerstone of the team’s rebuilding plan in 2008 . “And if you’re going to make a long-term investment, who else would you do it with? This takes away any of the issues of how committed we are to winning a Cup, how committed we are to keeping a team together.”

The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup in 2018 and Ovechkin’s contract marked one of the rare times in pro sports that an athlete lived up to his part of such a massive deal. It was the first nine-figure contract in NHL history and it was Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana Nikolaevna Ovechkina , who negotiated most of it with Leonsis.

Tatyana was the on-court leader of the Soviet Union basketball teams that won Olympic gold medals at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics (in Montreal), along with one world championship and six European titles as a point guard. She later became president of the Moscow Dynamo women’s basketball team.

Michael Farber wrote another one of his outstanding articles for Sports Illustrated shortly after that Ovechkin contract was signed and asked Tatyana if the deal might temper her son’s enthusiasm for the game.

“Not in two years or five,” she said. “He doesn’t have the stardom disease. People who say these things are jealous.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Apart from his wicked shot, the thing I enjoy most about watching Ovechkin play is how much fun he has. He still reacts like a little boy after he scores a goal with his missing-tooth smile, and his celebrations with the Stanley Cup were legendary.

“It seems like he’s still got a tremendous passion for the game,” Canadiens goalie Jake Allen said. “Passion for scoring goals and playing the game and sometimes that fades away for guys when they get older. I don’t know him at all, but just watching him you can still see that power and that passion to play and play for the Capitals.”

While Ovechkin is known for his trademark one-timer from the top of the left-hand circle with his right-hand shot, only one of his 15 goals this season came from that spot. Also, the days of Ovechkin being a defensive liability (he was minus-35 in 2013-14 when he scored 51 goals) are gone, thanks in large part to former Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who made him be more responsible in his own end. This season, under current coach Peter Laviolette, Ovechkin is plus-15 and ranks fifth in the NHL in plus/minus.

On Tuesday, I asked Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme what other players can learn from watching Ovechkin play.

“I think we all know top of the circle, one-timer,” Ducharme said. “He’s been scoring a lot of goals from there. But with the number of goals he’s scored in his career he also finds other ways to score. He’s pretty competitive, too. That’s something … I mean, he probably gets an extra 15-20 goals by going to the net, by finding pucks around the net, by scoring in different ways than what we’re used to seeing on the power play.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Ovechkin has scored 272 of his career goals on the power play, which works out to 37 per cent. The only NHL player to score more power-play goals is Dave Andreychuk with 274.

Allen was asked if he thinks Ovechkin can break Gretzky’s record.

“It will be tight,” the Canadiens goalie said. “Depends on how long he wants to play. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

Neither would I.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

More On This Topic

  1. Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price makes a save during Stanley Cup final against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Montreal on July 2, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: As Allen returns to Canadiens' net, thoughts are with Price

  2. Heading into Wednesday night’s game in Washington against the Capitals Ryan Poehling had 3-0-3 totals in six games with the Canadiens this season.

    Game Day Notebook: Ryan Poehling starting to fit in with Canadiens

  3. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals takes a slap shot against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at Capital One Arena on Nov. 14, 2021, in Washington.

    Canadiens at Washington Capitals: Five things you should know

  4. Canadiens goalie Jake Allen has a 4-8-1 record with a 2.78 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage this season.

    Canadiens Notebook: Jake Allen happy concussion spotter did his job

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers