CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin last week became just the 20th player in NHL history to score 600 goals. At 32, he's the third-youngest to reach that milestone and the fourth-fastest, accomplishing the feat in his 990th game.
Entering this week, Ovechkin was tied for the league lead with 43 goals this season. With 10 games remaining in the Capitals regular-season schedule, he could reach 50 goals for the eighth time in his career. That would put him one shy of the nine-season record jointly held by Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
If Ovechkin wins the Richard Trophy as his season's leading goal scorer, it'll mark the seventh time he'll take home that award. It would also be his fifth in the last six seasons.
Ovechkin is unquestionably this generation's greatest goal scorer and belongs among the all-time best. What makes his 600-goal achievement more remarkable is he reached that plateau in an era when scoring goals is considerably more difficult. Most of those ahead of him on the all-time list, including Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull and Mario Lemieux, tallied the bulk of their goals during the high-scoring 1980s and early-1990s.
Some wonder if Ovechkin might one day break Gretzky's record of 894 goals. To do so however, he must average 37 goals per season over the next eight years. Not an impossible task if he remains a healthy, productive NHL scorer, but he's still got a long way to go to catch The Great One.
Playoff bubble to burst for several clubs
With the Stanley Cup playoffs over two weeks away, several clubs are struggling to keep their postseason hopes alive.
In the Eastern Conference, only the Florida Panthers have a realistic shot of wresting one of the two wild-card berths away from the Columbus Blue Jackets or New Jersey Devils. Entering the week with 77 points, they're five behind the Jackets and Devils. The Carolina Hurricanes (73 points), meanwhile, sit nine points out with 10 games left.
It's a different story in the Western Conference. As the week began, only nine points separated the fourth-overall Minnesota Wild (89 points) from the 11th overall Calgary Flames. Sandwiched between them are the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.
Over the next couple of weeks, the Stars and Flames are most at risk of sliding out of the race. The Stars have won only twice in their last 10 games and on Sunday lost control of the last wild-card berth. The Flames, meanwhile, won only three of 10 games to sit four points out of contention.
With the Ducks and Avalanche surging of late in the standings and the Blues recently regaining their winning ways, the Stars and Flames must snap out of their respective slumps soon. Failure to do so could put them completely out of the running by the end of next week.
Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.