Make no mistake about it. Alex Ovechkin signed a five-year contract to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record of 894. And if he’s close at the end of that term, he gave off the vibe on Thursday that he may continue playing.
“You never know. I’m going to try my best,” Ovechkin said during a digital press conference with the media, including RMNB. “That’s why I want to play five more years. If I have a chance to catch The Great One, why not? If I’m going to be second, that’s a pretty good number as well.”
Ovechkin, long a doubter that he could become the NHL’s Goals King, has gone on a mental journey over the past few years where it can’t be broken to maybe.
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— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 29, 2021
“I don’t think it’s possible to beat that record,” Ovechkin first said to Russian media in June 2018 after winning the Stanley Cup. “You have to play till you’re 60. Jagr tried but couldn’t. Hockey isn’t the same. Everything is much more difficult now. To beat the record I have to score 50 each year. It’s hard.”
Two years later, Ovechkin remained unconvinced in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Craig Laughlin.
“It’s almost 200 goals,” he said. “And I think, if I would score right now 800 goals, it’s still 100 goals.  right? So it’s still a lot. I don’t think it’s possible, but – how I said – you have to play long enough to get that milestone – to get closer.”
But in 2021, Ovechkin’s view softened and he seemed interested in going after the record everyone long thought was unbreakable.
“You still have chances, man,” Ovechkin said on Capitals’ Breakdown Day in May. “You just have to go out there and do your thing. Maybe it will happen, maybe not. One step at a time.”
Ovi currently sits at 730 goals, one behind Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time. Ovechkin has averaged .61 goals per game during his 1,197 game career in Washington. If he were to play five more full seasons (410 games) and maintain that same goal-scoring pace, he’d break the record within four seasons.
Or, even simpler, Ovechkin must average 33 goals per season during his five remaining seasons to hit the mark.
During Ovechkin’s 16 seasons in the NHL, he’s scored 33 or more goals 13 times. His worst goal outputs came in the 2010-11 season (32), the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign (32), and the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season (24) where Ovi was shut down twice due to injury and COVID protocol.
“I just follow it day by day,” Ovechkin said. “I never look too much [in the future]. Game by game. Shift by shift. You never know what’s going to happen.
If Ovechkin scores 37 goals in what should be a full 2021-22 season, he’ll move into third place on the list and pass former Capitals forward Jaromir Jagr, who has 766.
“It’s gonna be tough, but you never know,” Ovechkin said. “I just want to do my best to be in the history. I’m happy to play with great players, great team, great organization. I just want to put myself on the top of the list and we’ll if it’s gonna happen.”
Father time, of course, remains undefeated. But perhaps Ovechkin, one of the most durable players in NHL history, can play just enough and maintain his level to reach the mark.
Or, as he suggested, he could game the system.
“I’m gonna tell Nicke to pass me the puck more,” he said laughing.
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