How Alex Ovechkin got to 1,000 points (Trending Topics)

WASHINGTON DC, JANUARY 11: Washington's Alex Ovechkin scores his 1000th career goal in the early first period as the Washington Capitals play the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center in Washington DC, January 7, 2016. (Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON DC, JANUARY 11: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin scores his 1000th career goal in the early first period as the Washington Capitals play the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center in Washington DC, January 7, 2016. (Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The thing that’s really mind-blowing about Alex Ovechkin clearing 1,000 points for his incredible Hall of Fame career is that he did it in 880 games.

In this era, that’s incredible. Not just because he did it playing in what has been the most difficult era for scoring in league history, and not just because he’s one of very few guys to break 1,000 by scoring more goals than assists. But because only 23 guys out of the 84 to likewise hit quadruple digits did so more quickly.

So among the highest-scoring players in the history of the National Hockey League, very few did it as much “by themselves” as Ovechkin (insofar as he is the one physically putting the puck in the net for the majority of his points) but the pace with which he did it is truly incredible.

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And then adding in the fact that the average save percentage for his career is probably in the area of .909 or so, well, he might be one of the most remarkable players in the history of the league.

Here’s the total list of guys who both broke 1,000 and have more goals than assists: Brett Hull, Mike Gartner, Bobby Hull, Dino Ciccarelli, Mike Bossy, Joe Nieuwendyk, Keith Tkachuk, and Ovechkin himself. And of that group — no surprise here — Ovechkin has the highest ratio of goals to assists, with 54.5 percent of his total points coming off his own stick. Only Brett Hull and Gartner break 53 percent besides. That alone is incredible.

It’s important to place that kind of scoring pace within a historical context. At just 31, Ovechkin also sits 29th in career goals, and is coming for both Michel Goulet and Ron Francis (who are up by two and three goals, respectively) in the next week or so. If he continues his current goals pace — and he’s only on track for 42, which would be the third-lowest 82-game total of his career — he’ll end the season at about 567. That would put him at 22nd all-time, ahead of Sundin and Nieuwendyk, tied at 564.

If he picks up the pace a little bit in the second half, he could threaten Bossy (573) or perhaps even Mark Recchi (577). That would move him into the top 20, with nothing but guys who broke 600 in front of him. And here’s the bad news for the guys ahead of him: in terms of goals per game, Ovechkin’s best months of the season have historically been as follows

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Yahoo

Mathematically, based on the Capitals schedule and his historical trends, Ovechkin should add about six more goals in January, seven or eight in February, almost nine in March, and nearly four in April. That’s for-sure faster than his pace so far this season, and doesn’t reflect the fact that he’s 31 now and probably slowing down a little bit. But conservatively that tacks another 25 or 26 goals onto his total and gets him into the neighborhood of 45 to 50 goals once again. Hell, if anyone can go on a shooting percentage binge, it’s Ovechkin, right?

Wrong. Another remarkable fact about his goalscoring exploits is the fact that he’s almost never too up or down in terms of shooting percentage. He used to have a higher shooting percentage in general back in the old days because the league save percentage was just lower, but with the exception of his lost 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons — when he “only” scored 32 and 38 goals, respectively — he’s never really bottomed out too hard in any 25-game set:

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Yahoo

Always in the neighborhood of 11 percent or so, with only the occasional forays into the 14 percent range. And yes, that lockout-shortened year was definitely a freak thing, starting so low and then skyrocketing so hard.

And while Ovechkin is certainly seen as a power play specialist, the fact of the matter is that he, like anyone else, does a lot of the heavy lifting at 5-on-5. Since he entered the league in 2005-06, only Sidney Crosby has more even-strength points than Ovechkin’s 606 (Crosby’s at 612 in 139 fewer games). Most of those players, of course, rely on assists to pad out their point total. Only Daniel Sedin has fewer assists per game in all situations than Ovechkin.

Of course, it’s also important to consider how many primary points — that is, goals and first assists — Ovechkin has, because one imagines he remains quite underrated as a guy who creates scoring chances for his teammates. The fact is that he’s not only a good passer in his own right, though it’s simply not in his nature to think he should pass when he might be able to shoot. But more to the point, a lot of shots are going to produce scoring chances even if they don’t go in. That can even be true if they’re blocked. With this in mind, it’s pretty illuminating that of Ovechkin’s 455 career assists, 304 were primaries. That’s more than 2 in every 3 assists he’s ever gotten, which is the kind of ratio you’d expect to see from an elite passer.

Simply put, Ovechkin isn’t any sort of passenger for the vast majority of goals scored when he’s on the ice. Unfortunately there’s no real way to find primary/second assist numbers as far back as 2005-06, Ovechkin’s rookie season. Corsica and similar sites only go back to 2007-08, when real-time stat tracking became the league standard. And weirdly NHL.com only goes back to 2011-12 (though they don’t actually tell you that).

So let’s put it this way: Since 2007-08 — which costs Ovechkin two seasons in which the majority of his helpers were primaries — Ovechkin is 15th in the league in primary assists with 215, first in goals (of course, but he’s also 137 ahead of second-place Steven Stamkos; that’s the slightly smaller than the gap between second and 50th). He’s been on the ice for 1,100 Capitals goals in that time, and was one of the last two guys to touch the puck on 663 of them. Come on.

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Yahoo

It’s amazing that his goals per game really hasn’t deteriorated much in the past few years even after he aged out of his prime. His shot rate is down and his effectiveness as a play driver has fallen off, but the goalscoring is inarguable. And he still scores the bulk of his goals at 5-on-5. It’s a stretch to say he’ll ever catch Gretzky — he’s currently 348 back — but if he stays healthy and doesn’t drop off a cliff around 33 or 34, Howe’s goal total of 801 is a very feasible 255 away. And barring catastrophe, he’s going to be one of eight players to clear 700, likely before the end of the decade.

Which is amazing, really, when you consider the era in which this is all happening. Like the man himself. How blessed are we to see him play every night?

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless otherwise stated.

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