The Road to 700: A deep-dive into how Alexander Ovechkin became the greatest goalscorer of our generation

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By Constantine Maragos, assisted by Ryan Reid and Adam Sigesmund

When you think about the greatest athletes of our generation, you always see the usual suspects; LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, the list goes on. However, hockey has an unsung hero (who is anything but) to represent the sport of hockey in this decorated group: Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s 700-goal milestone recognizes more than just his generational talent; it is indicative of how a player can continuously re-innovate and adjust their game with whatever challenges they face while providing fans with some breathtaking moments along the way. 

One of the most impressive features of Ovechkin’s game is his durability. In my opinion, it is his most overlooked strength. Throughout his career, Ovechkin has missed only 31 regular-season games, with nine due to suspension (including two for skipping the All-Star Game). On top of this, Ovechkin has played in every single Capitals playoff game since he entered the league. Moving forward, this aspect of Ovi’s game is crucial in his quest for 99’s ghost.

In total, Ovechkin has played 1,272 games, with 700 regular season and 65 playoff goals. That’s a lot of goals. Now that Ovi’s hit 700, QSAO Analyst Ryan Reid took it upon himself to look into each and every single time The Great 8 has hit the twine. In this very special QSAO piece, we break down all 700 of Alexander Ovechkin’s goals, down to when, where, and how they were scored, for the reading pleasure of our loyal readers.

As a quick foreword, if you are ever bored, and want to discover some really weird hockey stats, look no further than the NHL.com’s re-innovated statistics database. After completing its complete overhaul in the 2017 Centennial Season, there is a wealth of historical information that you can find wherever, and wherever. Considering the NHL had been slacking for so long about this type of information, it is great to see that they have given the fans such an excellent resource. It was a tremendous help in collecting the information we needed to make this article possible. 

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Scored on October 5th 2005 as a Washington Capital against the Columbus Blue Jackets\’ Pascal Leclaire.

Number One

With so many ways to crunch the numbers, it’s almost impossible to decide where to start, so we’ll start from the beginning. Ovechkin scored his first career goal on October 5th, 2005, which was assisted by Jeff Halpern (who played with Ovechkin from ‘05-‘06) and Dainius Zubrus (‘05-‘07).

Alex Ovechkin becomes the 8th player all-time to join the 700 goals club, beating MacKenzie Blackwood for his spot in history For the latest hockey action, s…

Number 700

This first goal leads us to today, where Alexander Ovechkin scored his 700th career goal against the New Jersey Devils, off a one-timer assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov (’13-’20) and Nick Jensen (’18-’20).

 

1,215 times a player earned an assist thanks to an Ovechkin goal

Speaking of assists, Ovechkin has contributed 1,215 assists to teammates in his career, shared by 94 players to suit up for the Capitals over the years. This figure includes five goalies, led by Olaf Kolzig (’05-08), with five assists (five!), followed by Jose Theodore (‘08-‘10), Tomas Vokoun (‘11-‘12), Michal Neuvirth (‘08-‘14), and Braden Holtby (‘10-present) with one apple apiece. Fun fact, in 2005-06 (Ovechkin’s rookie season), Kolzig recorded a career-high three assists, all coming from an Ovechkin goal. 

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260 of those assists are from one player…

It should come as no surprise that longtime teammate Nicklas Backstrom tops the list, recording an assist on 260(!) of Ovechkin’s goals. You always knew that the pair had tremendous chemistry but seeing the numbers behind it is fascinating. Duos like Ovechkin & Backstrom truly are a spectacle to watch. To be honest, Backstrom may go down as one of the most underrated players of the post-lockout era.

Backstrom is as pure of a playmaker that you can find. There is not another centreman in the NHL that could have paired better with Ovechkin over the course of his career, and they will go down as one of the greatest duos to play together in the salary-cap era (if not all time). Just look at the kind of highlights these two created! 

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129 — The number of goalies Ovechkin has scored on

Now, when a superhuman player scores 700 goals, you are going to encounter quite a few disgruntled goaltenders. 129 to be exact – that’s how many goalies Ovechkin has scored on. At the top of the list are some familiar foes, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury, whom Ovechkin has potted 24 goals against, in 42 and 41 games, respectively. It is yet another testament to Ovechkin’s legend, who can, at will, embarrass two of the best goaltenders of the decade, as you can see below.

Lundqvist:

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin weaves through two Rangers defensemen and snipes a laser from his knees past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for a gorgeous goal.

Fleury:

After losing his stick Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin picks it back up and beats Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Now, that we have broken the ice a bit, we are going to break things down fully – all 700 goals, cut in whatever which way you can think of. To start, here are Ovechkin’s goal totals by season.

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Career stats that Randy Carlyle would call “just ok.” (Stats via https://www.nhl.com/player/alex-ovechkin-8471214).

Alexander Ovechkin has eclipsed the 50-goal mark eight times in his career (including a ~55-goal pace in the ’12-13 lockout-shortened season). Ovechkin’s best season comes at the age of 22, scoring 65 goals and 112 points. It was the 2007-08 where Ovechkin also officially opened his trophy cabinet, winning his first (and only) Art Ross, Maurice Richard, Ted Lindsay, and Hart Memorial Trophy.

Something funny to point out when looking at his career numbers, but does anyone else remember the 2012-13 phase where ‘insiders’ questioned whether or not Ovechkin was ‘still good’?

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Yeah, me too. 

In his career so far, Ovechkin has won the Calder, one Art Ross, three Ted Lindsay Awards, three Hart Trophies, and obviously a Stanley Cup, and a Conn Smythe Trophy to top it off.

Celebrations, Hattricks, and more

Throughout the years, Alex Ovechkin has shown that there is nobody, nobody, that likes to score goals more than, well, Alex Ovechkin, and he reflects it through his iconic celebrations, and what better way is there to embody that passion than through his “Hot Stick” celebration,  after scoring his 50th goal of the 2009-10 season.

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Such a humble competitor.

Speaking of goals, not only has Alexander Ovechkin scored a lot of them, but he’s also scored a lot of them in bunches of three. With 27 career hattricks, that places him first amongst active players, and eighth all-time.

 Ovi’s first career hattrick came on January 13th, 2006, and his latest coming on February 4th.

Look at all goals,. So cool.

Alex Ovechkin reaches 40 goals for the 11th time, scoring a natural hat trick for the Washington Capitals in under five minutes to rally from being a goal do…

Look at the tape above of his first and most recent hattrick. All six goals (albeit one empty-netter) are different, yet the same boisterous and truculent playstyle remains constant throughout.

Timeless.

Speaking of just how consistent Ovechkin has been throughout his career, Ovechkin has never finished below 12th in league scoring, only ranking outside the top 5 twice in his career. On top of that, he has won the Maurice Richard trophy in more seasons than he has not with 8 trophies in 14 years. Currently sitting 3rd in league scoring this season, he is well-positioned to add another trophy to his cabinet this year.

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Regardless of the place, Ovechkin can be relied on to score goals. Home or away, Ovechkin remains consistent posting a 0.60 G/GP at home, and a 0.62 G/GP away throughout his career.

Of his 346 goals scored at home, 24 have come at the MCI Centre (’05-’06), 258 at the Verizon Centre (’05-‘17), and 62 at Capital One Arena (’17-present). Away from home, the Air Canada Centre was always a favourite place of Ovechkin’s to score, potting 20 goals in only 22 games. Within this total are 14 games with goals including two hat-tricks. Followed closely behind are Madison Square Garden (19 goals in 30 games) and Nassau Coliseum (18 goals in 21 games).

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Only the top arena’s are shown

By franchise, Ovechkin has found the back of the net against all 30 other teams. Teams that have been particularly good at defending Ovechkin have been the Avalanche and the Coyotes allowing only (only?) 8 goals and 0.40 G/GP. On the other hand, Ovechkin sits in the top 9 in goals scored against 11 different franchises, notably the Florida Panthers (39 goals), Winnipeg Jets (47 goals) and Tampa Bay Lightning (48 goals) which Ovechkin has scored more goals against than any other player.

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Breaking it down by month, Ovi certainly likes to start his year off right, scoring 120 goals in the month of January. An impressive feat considering he’s usually scheduled to miss a game for the All-Star Break around that time. 

Breaking it down by day of the month, Ovechkin’s least productive day is the 8th with 15 goals, ironically enough. The day of the month he looks forward to the most is the 7th, scoring 38 goals, nine more than any other day.

In contests where the Washington Capitals have won, Ovechkin has scored 504 goals, and 196 in games they have lost. A wise man once said that pressure makes diamonds, and that’s exactly what Ovi is, as 247 of his goals have been scored in the 3rd period, 16 more than in the 2nd (231), and 48 more than in the 1st (199). Even when there aren’t any goalies in net, Ovechkin is still lethal. Since ’05-06, Ovechkin leads the league with 39 empty-net goals, which obviously inflates said total, but nonetheless, let’s count another milestone on the board! However, to further prove my point, Ovechkin also holds the record for most overtime goals with 23, 7 ahead of Sidney Crosby and Daniel Sedin.  

Washington Capitals legend Alex Ovechkin puts together a marathon shift in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes, culminating in a beautiful game-winning …

To be honest, I wish he just scored at 0:51.

By game situation, 437 goals have come at even-strength, 259 have come on the man-advantage, and four shorthanded. Ovechkin has also scored two penalty shots in his career, both in the same calendar year (2010), coming against the late Ray Emery on January 17th, and Martin Brodeur on October 9th. 

Brodeur:

Ovechkin\’s second of the night comes courtesy of a penalty shot late in the second.

Emery:

5,519 career shots

Now that we’ve broken it down a bit, another mind-blowing aspect of Ovechkin’s game is the sheer volume of shots that he takes. I think it is common knowledge at this point that Alexander Ovechkin likes to take a lot of shots. Like, a lot. So, it is no surprise that the numbers back that up. Since ‘05-06, Ovechkin has taken more shots than any other player, by a wide margin. His 5,519 career shots are a whopping 1,838 ahead of second-place Eric Staal (3,681), as of writing. This also gives Ovechkin a career shooting percentage of 12.7%, pretty damn good for a 15-year (and counting) playing career.

With a lot of shots, comes a lot of shot attempts, and again, Ovi dominates that category as well. His 2,407-career missed shot attempts beat out second placeholder Brent Burns’ total (1,426) by 981. Now, for those who have not been following the math, that’s 7,926-career shot attempts, in 1,144 games. 

With that being said, Ovechkin has scored a lot of goals in a lot of different ways. Unfortunately, shot types were either not tracked or not publicly available until the 2009-10 season, but looking into it is a good exercise, nonetheless. Since 2009-10, Ovechkin’s most frequent shot type is the slapshot one-timer wrist shot, with 1,694 shots and a shooting percentage of 11.7%. Additionally, Ovechkin has taken 776 snapshots, with a shooting percentage of 11.9%. 

It should come as no surprise that the slapshot has been his most successful shot type since ’09-10 (and surely his career, if not to make such a hot take), with 909 shots at a percentage of 14.7%. 

Now, I could have selected one of the many one-timer goals Ovechkin has scored in his career, but I’ll just let you pick one (or all of them) from EVERY ALEX OVECHKIN GOAL FROM THE OVI SPOT (as of March 2018).

I decided to make a compilation of all Ovechkin goals from his office. At the time of uploading, Ovechkin had 597 career goals + playoff goals. Hope you enjo…

While Ovechkin could be considered a bit of a sniper, he’s not afraid to use alternate methods, with 94 tip shots and 29 deflection attempts, at a “shooting percentage” of 22.3% and 24.1%, respectively. Surprisingly, Ovechkin has not scored a wraparound goal in the past ten-ish years, with eight total wraparound shots. At least we know he’s scored at least one in his career.

You knew there was absolutely no way you were getting through this article without seeing “The Goal.”

Follow my YouTube video updates on Twitter. http://twitter.com/HockeyWebCast Was Alex Ovechkin\’s 2006 goal against Phoenix Coyotes, the greatest miracle goal…

With another career milestone checked off, there’s one question we need to address; can he beat Wayne Gretzky’s goalscoring record? We at QSAO are very inclined to say yes, however instead of arguing whether or not his body can keep up, or when his production is going to fall off a cliff, just remember not to get lost in the hype, and remember to sit back witness the greatness that is, Alexander Ovechkin. 

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Statistics provided by NHL.com & Hockey-Reference

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