Ovechkin in midst of historic season

December 23, 2013

Alex Ovechkin watches as a tribute to his 400th goal is played in the first period against the Devils on Saturday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

We are witnessing history. Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season Sunday night, a wrister from the slot that put his ninth straight season with at least 30 goals in the books.

There have been 11 other players who have scored at least 30 goals in each of their first nine seasons. Eight of them — Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Jari Kurri and Bryan Trottier — are already in the Hall of Fame. Two others, Mike Modano and Jaromir Jagr, will almost certainly get the call, as might Dave Andreychuk, who rounds out the list.

But this season could be more extraordinary than it appears. Scoring a goal today is not the same as when those hockey heroes laced them up, making Ovechkin’s feat even more remarkable when put in historical context.

 

With 46 games to play, where can we expect Ovechkin to end up? For the answer, we crank up the ole Monte Carlo Machine.

Under Coach Adam Oates, Ovechkin has scored 29 goals at both even strength and on the power play. It has taken him 249 shots to do the former and just 132 for the latter. That gives him shooting percentages of 11.6 and 22.0, respectively. We also know Ovechkin skates 16 minutes per night at even strength and gets another five minutes per night with the man advantage. Washington is awarded between three and four power-play opportunities per game, so we can start to get some reasonable expectations for the remainder of the season by simulating thousands of seasons and tallying the results.

For example, in just one out of every 50 seasons simulated did Ovechkin end up with a final goal total of less than 50, so barring injury we will most likely witness The Great Eight’s fifth 50-goal campaign.

There is a 50-50 chance Ovechkin ends up with 60 goals or more, which would make him the ninth player with at least least two 60-goal seasons on his resume, and the first to do it in the salary-cap era.

However, all eyes are on the elusive 70-goal season. Just eight players in NHL history have tallied at least that much, and with Ovechkin currently on a 70-goal pace, it makes sense to keep expectations high. The Monte Carlo Machine, unfortunately, is less enthusiastic, giving Ovi 30-to-1 odds to hit 70 or more.


So yes, I am saying there is a chance. But no matter where Ovechkin ends up, this is one heck of a season.

greenberg
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced statistics for all sports and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Katie Carrera | December 23, 2013