By Ian Oland
Early in his career, Alex Ovechkin was criticized by the mainstream media for not showing up big in the playoffs. Now, over a decade later, we can see just how silly that narrative was.
Ovechkin, who led the Capitals to a Stanley Cup in 2018, has scored a goal in every postseason series he’s ever played in. Ovi owns the most playoff goals (72), PPG (28), GWG (10), and points (139) in Capitals franchise history.
Now, The Great 8 has collected his first NHL playoff record. After doling out six hits against the Florida Panthers during Game Three, Ovechkin became the NHL’s all-time hits leader*.
Please note the asterisk, but I’ll explain below.
NHL Postseason Hits Leaders
Per Quant Hockey as of May 9, 2022
Ovechkin passed longtime Penguin Brooks Orpik who won a Stanley Cup with Ovi in 2018 and is now a Capitals development coach. Notably, Tom Wilson ranks 15th with 332 hits and may one day challenge Ovi for this record.
So why the asterisk? Hits are a modern-day statistic that wasn’t officially tracked by the NHL until 2005-06, Ovechkin’s first season in the NHL.
Regardless, how Ovechkin imposes his will in the postseason is notable. Other modern-day goal scorers like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos do not lay the lumber like Ovechkin does and Saturday, Ovechkin’s physicality arguably turned Game Three in the Capitals favor.
#ALLCAPS Ovechkin runs over a florida player pic.twitter.com/kl4y9Sepvf
— Capitals Replays (@capsreplays) May 7, 2022
With 4 minutes remaining in the first, Ovechkin has been the most physical player on the ice, with punishing hits on Huberdeau, Acciari and Barkov so far. #Caps
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) May 7, 2022
Ovechkin’s six hits tied for the team lead with Garnet Hathaway and Lars Eller.
“The score might have been 6-1 but we didn’t score our first goal for a while,” TJ Oshie said. “We had to grind it out for a little while and just keep going and going and going.”
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir observed to Oshie that Ovechkin uses physicality to drag his teammates into the fight.
“If The Big Man’s hitting — everyone’s got less games than him, less experience, less GOATness — so if The Big Man’s hitting, you better be hitting, too. He’s going to drag everyone else along with him. He wears the C for a reason. He leads us into battle. When he’s going hard and playing physical, that just bleeds through the rest of the team.”
Ovechkin also sits fourth all-time in regular-season hits with 3,283 and trails only Dustin Brown (3,632), Cal Clutterbuck (3,562), and Matt Martin (3,408).
S/T to Jacob Grandbois for the heads up.
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