After Alex Ovechkin scored eight goals in three games last week, NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti spoke to Wayne Gretzky about how secure he believed his NHL goals record still was. Gretzky scored 894 goals in 1,487 career games. Ovechkin is now only 202 goals away from The Great One’s record in his age 34 season.
“I’m a big believer that records are made to be broken,” Gretzky said to NHL.com. “What I accomplished, I’m very proud of. It’s hard to do what I did, and it’s really hard to do what he’s doing now. But there’s no question in my mind that he has a real legitimate chance of doing it. The two things that you need; you’ve got to stay healthy, and he’s proven that over his career. He plays hard and he stays healthy. And, secondly, you’ve got to be on a good team — and he plays on a good team.”
Gretzky added that Ovechkin “plays with good players, and that obviously helps.” Recently, Ovechkin’s long-time center, Nicklas Backstrom, signed a five-year extension that will keep him in Washington through 2025.
Ovechkin has a chance to break the record because of his legendary durability and consistency. The Russian machine has scored 50 goals during eight of his 15 seasons in the NHL and has won eight Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies as the league’s leading goal-scorer. Ovechkin is also only the second player in NHL history to score 30 goals in each of his first 15 seasons in the NHL. Ovechkin’s worst seasons in the NHL are also just as remarkable: he’s scored under 40 goals in only four seasons (one of which was lockout-shortened) and his lowest goal total in one season is 32.
“I think it would be wonderful for the game,” Gretzky said if Ovechkin broke his record. “Anything that’s positive is always good for the game… I hope (Capitals owner Ted Leonsis) realizes that when I was chasing Gordie’s record, Gordie and Colleen got to fly on the team plane. I hope I get invited to fly on the team plane because I would love to be at the game.”
Gretzky was referring to October 15, 1989, when he overtook his idol growing up, Gordie Howe, for the most points in NHL history with 1,851. How and his wife Colleen were in attendance and joined him on the ice to celebrate.
Five years later, Gretzky broke Howe’s all-time goals record of 802 on March 23rd, 1994, but Mr. Hockey was not in attendance. This marked the last time the goals record has been broken (26 years ago).
Gretzky said he told some children recently that, “‘What makes Alex so good is what Brett Hull and Mike Bossy had. He doesn’t miss the net.’ He gives himself a chance to score every time.”
Ovechkin is also scoring in an era where it’s harder to score goals. Ovi has already overtaken Gretzky in era-adjusted goals.
By request, I pulled all the game logs from 1979 on (first year game logs were available) from @hockey_ref and compared Alex Ovechkin's era-adjusted goal scoring rate to the other top era-adjusted scorers.
He's very much in a league of his own. pic.twitter.com/2Dczply1eZ
— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) January 24, 2020
“What he’s done is really tremendous for the game, for the Capitals, for his home country of Russia. I think it’s wonderful,” Gretzky said.
Headline photo: NBC Sports
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