It’s not just how many goals Alex Ovechkin scores. It’s how many more goals he scores than everybody else.
Last season, when the Capitals winger carted off enough awards to fill a Zamboni, he led the NHL with 65 goals. The next-highest total was 52 by the Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk.
This year Ovechkin is leading the league again with 49 going into Monday night’s game against the Thrashers. That’s nine more than the No. 2 guy, Zach Parise of New Jersey.
In case you were wondering, this isn’t all that common in hockey. In fact, only five players in NHL history have had back-to-back seasons in which they’ve scored 10 or more goals than anybody else in the league. With 12 games left – and a dozen goals in his last 14 – Alexander the Great has a good chance to be the sixth member of the club.
The illustrious company he would keep – all of them, not surprisingly, Hall of Famers:
1. Gordie Howe, Red Wings: 47 goals in 1951-52 (runner-up: Blackhawks’ Bill Mosienko, 31); 49 in ’52-53 (Detroit teammate Ted Lindsay, 32).
2. Bobby Hull, Blackhawks: 54 in 1965-66 (Maple Leafs’ Frank Mahovlich, 32); 52 in ’66-67 (Chicago teammate Stan Mikita, 35).
3. Phil Esposito, Bruins: 76 in 1970-71 (teammate Johnny Bucyk, 51); 66 in ’71-72 (Hull and the Rangers’ Vic Hadfield both had 50).
4. Mario Lemieux, Penguins: 70 in 1987-88 (Craig Simpson had 56 for the Pens and Oilers); 85 in ’88-89 (Kings’ Bernie Nicholls, 70).
5. Brett Hull, Blues: 72 in 1989-90 (Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman, 62); 86 in ’90-91 (three players, including Yzerman, had 51); 70 in ’91-92 (Penguins’ Kevin Stevens, 54).
That’s right, Hull the Younger pulled it off three times in a row.
For the record, Wayne Gretzky won the goal-scoring title by 10 or more twice, but not in consecutive years. The same goes for Mike Bossy and Maurice Richard. (The only others to do it even once are Toronto’s Charlie Conacher in 1934-35, Florida’s Pavel Bure in 1999-2000 and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla in 2001-02.)
One more tidbit: Ovechkin would be accomplishing the feat at the ages of 22 and 23 – earlier than any of the Aforementioned Five except Lemieux (who was also 22/23).
Bonus tidbit: Howe (1952) and Esposito (1972) were the only ones to win the Stanley Cup during their two-year runs. Indeed, they were the only ones to even reach the Finals.
– Dan Daly