Previewing the Washington Capitals 2021-22 season in the prevailing vocabulary of our time: vibes.
In this edition: Alex Ovechkin chasing Gretzky’s record is a new frontier for hockey.
Wayne Gretzky owns all the coolest records in the NHL (goals, assists, points, short-handed goals, hat tricks), but he didn’t age all that great. Mike Knuble scored more goals (224) in his 30s than Gretzky did (217). Ovechkin’s had 255, and he’s barely halfway into the decade. Which is all to say these are two very different players in two very different eras with two very similar nicknames.
No one will ever touch Gretzky’s peak, but Ovi is a one-of-a-kind player. If he can catch Gretzky, he’ll do it through durability: playing and playing well into his 40s.
If he can actually pull it off is an open question. Ovechkin mostly played through a lower-back injury last season. Recently he’s been out day-to-day with a knee injury since an awkward collision with Flyers forward Travis Konecny in the preseason. These could be considered normal aches and pains for a normal athlete, but Alex Ovechkin isn’t normal. Up until 2020 he had missed just 17 games of 1164 to injury. There are entire websites named for this phenomenon.
If Ovechkin can play, I’m pretty sure he can score. His last six seasons — all played in Ovechkin’s 30s — have showed no apparent aging curve at all.
The only question is the obvious one — about machines from Russia and how often they break.
By the way: we’re not remotely ready for this level of hype. This is a a physical Soviet chasing a Canadian good ol’ boy — also the consensus greatest player of all time — for the biggest and purest number in the sport: who put the thing in the place the most? It’s the blue-eyed, finesse-y hare versus the steely-eyed, bury-em-in-pucks tortoise. And all for an ostentatious record that, with each ratcheting of the goal total, will garner more attention from the media. You’re gonna see Ovi as a talking point among the gambling interests, talking heads on ESPN, and actual heads of state.
Sometime soon, Ian is gonna be on ESPN, being sweaty and pronouncing it “Warshington.” I cannot wait.
So here’s the vibe: Ovi vs Gretzky will become the biggest story in hockey.
Next vibe: The Oldtimers’ Club
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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