- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2018

Once Alex Ovechkin won the Stanley Cup last season, many wondered how he would respond to finally becoming a champion.

Observers saw videos of him partying during the summer. Would that, literally, translate into a hangover for the following year?

Through 32 games, Ovechkin has provided a resounding “no” to that question.

At 33 years old, Ovechkin leads the league in goals with 29, has scored in six straight games and recently, had back-to-back hat tricks. According to the NHL, Ovechkin is only the third player since the 1993-94 season to score at least 28 goals in his team’s first 31 games — joining Jamoir Jagr and Mario Lemieux.

Ovechkin’s scoring barrage has gotten to the point in which the Capitals winger was openly disappointed he didn’t earn his third straight hat trick following Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Mind you, he still had a goal and the game-winning score in a shootout.

“I have pretty good chances, but today was not my day,” Ovechkin told reporters. “You can’t score every night.”

Ovechkin has helped a banged-up Capitals squad stay afloat. While the team’s forwards are now healthy with winger Tom Wilson returning from a concussion, Ovechkin has had 17 goals in the last 14 games. T.J. Oshie also missed time with a concussion during that span.

This, too, is Ovechkin’s career-best start to a season. Even when he scored a career-high 65 goals in 2007-08, the Russian star had “just” 23 goals in his first 32 games.

This season, Ovechkin is averaging 8.5 shots on goal per game — converting an astonishing 22.5 percent of them. That, by far, is a career-best, which could be a good indication Ovechkin will cool off at some point. Before this season, his top shooting percentage was 14.6 (2007-08).

But for now, the Capitals will gladly enjoy Ovechkin’s production. They’ve won five straight and lead the Metropolitan Divison with 43 points.

“I don’t have an answer for it other than the fact that he came back from winning the Stanley Cup, and he was ready to go from Day One,” coach Todd Reirden said after Friday’s win in Carolina. “And he hasn’t stopped since. … It’s very impressive. He’s been outstanding.”

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