Saturday was a day to celebrate and reflect on a milestone reached only seven times before. But with Ovechkin’s continued goal-scoring prowess and remarkable durability, 700 hardly feels like a journey nearing its end.
Suddenly, WayneGretzky’s record of 894, long thought to be untouchable, seems not only possible for Overlain but realistic. He scored 41 goals in 1990-91 at the age of 30 and that would be the last time he would hit that mark.
Those are the kind of numbers that begin to make you believe that catching Gretzky is a real possibility. With every goal Overlain scores, the math for catching Gretzky becomes more and more realistic.
At 34 years old, Overlain is still the best goal scorer in the game and is showing no signs of slowing down. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.
Overlain has arguably been compared to Hull most throughout his career, given their elite goal-scoring ability. Hull finished with 741 goals in his career, and he played until he was 41, last appearing in five games in the 2005-06 season.
That was Ovechkin’s rookie year, and at 33, he’s on pace to become the first player since Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamps in 2011-12 to post a 60-goal campaign. And because Overlain has finally added a Stanley Cup to his impressive résumé, the question surrounding him now is whether he cancatchWayneGretzky’s record of 894 career goals.
The league was more physical when he entered it, and that suited his hulking, 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame. But even as it has changed to speed and shiftiness with the new generation of talent, Ovechkin’s shot has remained just as powerful.
When you get to continuously play with Backstroke and Kuznets and guys like Os hie, who are smart, good, play making people, you get open and can shoot it like that. With that 30th goal of the season Thursday night, Overlain became just the second player in NHL history to have scored at least 30 in each of his first 14 seasons, joining ex-Capitals star Mike Gartner.
But after Washington’s 5-2 loss to St. Louis, Overlain was in no mood to celebrate his latest milestone. The last time a player 33 or older led the NHL in goals was in 1974-75, when center Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins scored 61.
Age doesn't seem like much of a factor for Overlain, who is on pace for an NHL career-high 72 goals in 82 games. Steve German of the Detroit Red Wings scored 35 goals at age 34 and is ninth on the all-time list with 692.
While sustainability is a difficult trend to predict, Overlain is already among the all-time greats and has a realistic shot at becoming the most prolific goal-scorer in NHL history. Behind the Numbers is a weekly series where NHL.com examines both player and team trends with an emphasis being placed on advanced statistics.
This week we look at Washington Capitals left wing AlexOvechkin and what it would take for him to tie or surpass Wayne Gretzky as the NHL's all-time leading goal-scorer. Gretzky scored his 894 goals in 1,487 games over a 20-year career with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.
A vast majority of his goals came during the sport's highest-scoring era, and Gretzky reached 40 in a season for the last time at age 30. Longtime running mate Nicolas Backstroke just signed on for five more years, so it's not impossible to think Overlain stays around long term.
“He loves to score and continues to bring that to rink every day,” Capitals general manager Brian McClellan said. Gretzky recently told NHL.com he’s rooting for Overlain to break his record, with staying healthy and playing on a good team the two necessary ingredients.
Backstroke, center Even Kuznets and defense man John Carlson are all signed long term after winning the Stanley Cup with Overlain in 2018. Wrapping up his playing days back home in Russia could be alluring to Overlain, so it's unclear how many more years he wants to remain in the NHL.
“It just depends on how long he wants to play,” said Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who allowed Ovechkin's 600th goal. “I think everyone halfway through his career would've said, no, he's going to tail off at some point,” Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano said.
He's conservatively predicting a 55-goal season, which would mean Overlain at his career rate needs to play roughly 300 more games to get close. Boston's David Pasternak, who is currently neck-and-neck with Overlain and Toronto's Austin Matthews in the goal-scoring race and might one day be the NHL's next 700-goal scorer, can 't really see” Gretzky's record being broken.
Pasternak thinks Overlain will join Gretzky and Gordie Howe by surpassing 800, though Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wonders about the goals beyond that. Overlain is already in elite company in the 700 club with Gretzky, Howe, Armor Jar, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Esposito and Mike Gartner.
There is perhaps no more intriguing story in hockey right now than AlexOvechkin’s pursuit of WayneGretzky’s all-time goal record. However, no matter when this season pause ends, it seems all but certain that the regular season is over, which will unfortunately rob Overlain of even more goals in his pursuit of Gretzky’s all-time goals record.
This would mark the third time in Ovechkin’s career that he would miss out on valuable goals due to circumstances out of his control. In terms of chasing Gretzky, that’s eight goals that he’ll have to make up later if he hopes to catch him.
In Ovechkin’s eventual rookie season a year later, he scored 52 goals, the third best goal scoring season in NHL history for a rookie. We’ll never know if Overlain would’ve had the same kind of historic season at 19-years-old, but just as an estimate lets say he scores at a 25 percent reduced pace, meaning he missed out on at least 40 goals for that entire season.
So, due to three separate circumstances entirely out of Ovechkin’s control, he has potentially missed out on give or take 70 career goals. However, with speculative talks of potentially shortening next year’s regular season in order to have this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, it would just add even more goals to the list that Overlain would have to make up in order to even have a shot at breaking the record.
But still, if there’s one person who could defy all of these obstacles and just keep scoring goals, it’s the Russian Machine, AlexOvechkin. Wayne Gretzky sees a lot of himself in AlexOvechkin, from the smile on his face each time he steps on the ice to his passion for scoring goals.
There are also differences, like Gretzky's sole focus on the NHL growing up in Brantford, Ontario, versus Ovechkin's upbringing in Moscow. “The Great One” believes the Washington Capitals captain has a good chance of breaking his all-time record of 894 goals that once seemed untouchable, depending on how long Overlain plays in the NHL.
Gretzky speculated that Overlain could go home to Russia and finish his career in the Continental Hockey League. “Maybe one day in his mind he’ll say, ‘Look, I want to go home and play in the kHz when I can still compete at a high level,’” Gretzky told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday.
Ovechkin's longevity and his pursuit of Gretzky's record are among the topics they discussed in their first joint interview, which airs Monday on NBC Sports Network. It comes with them 3,000 miles away and hockey on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic but shines a spotlight on the potential of Overlain, who has 706 goals, spending the next few years chasing Gretzky.
“You really feel like this record is meaningful,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said in a video interview with The AP. When asked how long he’d play, Overlain has repeatedly referred to the one-year remaining on his contract and said, “We’ll see.” He answers the same to NBC’s Kathryn Happen during the hour-long special with Gretzky and adds: “I’m healthy, thanks God, and I still love this game.
Possibly losing as many as 13 games with the NHL on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic could leave Overlain two short of another 50-goal season and threaten his ability to break WayneGretzky’s all-time record.