Alex Ovechkin scored his ninth goal of the 2022-23 season on Thursday, giving him 789 career goals. That leaves The Great Eight just 106 goals from overtaking Wayne Gretzky for the all-time lead.
Evgeny Kuznetsov has ridden shotgun with Ovi for a lot of those goals over the past five or so seasons. Kuzy sat down with former Caps forward Andrei Nikolishin, during a “Slippery Ice” interview, to talk about Ovechkin’s chase of Gretzky.
“Backstrom is injured now, you will play with Sasha,” Nikolishin started via a Google Translation. “Everyone is talking about [Gretzky’s] record. Is there any pressure on you?”
“No, no, no,” Kuznetsov replied. “He’s going to beat him anyway. I think he will always score at least 20 goals, even when he is over 40. He has a gift from God. He knows how to be in the right place.”
Ovechkin’s 50-goal 2021-22 campaign at the age of 36 made him the oldest 50-goal scorer in NHL history. The regularity and volume that the Capitals captain has scored goals is unprecedented in the modern NHL.
For example, Hockey Reference’s era-adjusted, all-time NHL and WHA goal totals have Ovechkin (923) just two behind Gordie Howe (925) for first all-time and already 165 goals past Gretzky (758). Even Ovi’s teammates can take that sort of production for granted.
“Everyone has their own job on the ice, sometimes you don’t even notice what you’re becoming a part of,” Kuznetsov said. “Then you look from the side and think, ‘Damn, the dude can beat Gretzky’s record’ – and Gretzky was considered an unattainable person all his life.”
While Gretzky has been nothing but cordial toward Ovechkin as the Russian superstar tries to track down one of his most prestigious records, Kuznetsov couldn’t help but joke about ‘The Great One’ trying to make sure Ovi doesn’t get there.
“I know that Sasha communicates well with him,” Kuznetsov said. “In general, we joked that Gretzky would now be throwing [money] at the teams we were playing against. In 10 years he will be bankrupt – no money.”
First things first, before Ovechkin, and Kuznetsov by extension, have their attention fully turned to Gretzky, Ovi will need to get to the 800-goal milestone which he is now eleven goals away from. Then, Howe will be his next target just one goal later at 801.
Surely, Kuzy will want to assist on those goals so he is in the eventual photos the Capitals take postgame.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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