Capitals No Longer Need 50 Goals from Alex Ovechkin


Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are still getting more than they need from Alex Ovechkin, even if he doesn’t score 50 goals.

For just about a decade, Alex Ovechkin has been not only a face of the Washington Capitals, but the NHL as well. He has all but solidified himself as the greatest goal scorer of his era, and arguably one of the best in the history of hockey. Oh, and he’s just 30 years old.

Through 24 games played this season, Alex Ovechkin leads the Washington Capitals with 12 goals. Within that short time frame, he has become the all-time leading Russian goal scorer in NHL history, and will all but certainly reach the career 500 goal mark at some point this season.

His current pace puts him on track to hit about 40 goals this season, not quite the 50 that seems automatic with Alex Ovechkin. After a hot start with five goals in his first five games, his scoring has sort of leveled off. He has seemed quiet at times. But, let us look back about two sentences: he is still on pace for 40 goals, no small feat on its own.

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All it would take it one of his trademark tears, where Alex Ovechkin simply becomes unstoppable no matter what opposing teams try, where he could easily score ten goals over the span of five or six games. We’ve seen it time and time again, and it just feels like he is waiting to break out in a big way.

The best part about that? The Washington Capitals don’t NEED him to. Now don’t get me wrong, seeing Alex Ovechkin explode out to a 60 goal pace would be an amazing sight, and one that would probably cause the Capitals to become an absolute juggernaut in the Eastern Conference. This is something that could very easily happen, mind you. 

However, I encourage you to look at the player by player statistics for the Washington Capitals this season. It is common knowledge that this is probably the deepest team that Alex Ovechkin has played on as a Capital, and that this is quite possibly the deepest team in Washington Capitals history. If there is a hole, there is but one or two (think third-line center). There is an incredible balance from the top of the lineup to the bottom that we haven’t seen before.

No longer are the times where there are two or three players leading the Capitals in goals or points by a wide margin, followed by a huge drop off. This team as currently constructed is nothing like the teams we saw before Barry Trotz arrived, such as a 2012-13 team that literally rode on Ovechkin’s back in the middle of resurgent season to make the playoffs in a lockout-shortened campaign.

The 2015-16 Washington Capitals have many things that the teams of recent years haven’t had. T.J. Oshie is a legitimate top-six winger that can keep up with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. This is something that the Capitals have been looking for, for quite some time.

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  • Evgeny Kuznetsov has added a completely new dynamic to this squad. Not only does Washington finally have their second line center for the foreseeable future, the way Kuznetsov has developed would lead you to believe that the center situation will be more 1A/1B between him and Backstrom.

    The Caps also can say that they have “Mr. Game Seven” on their side. No, the game seven record that Justin Williams possesses doesn’t matter much. But Williams is a proven winner that has contributed in a big way to this point as a Capital. They also have a top-five goaltender in Braden Holtby.

    Gone are the days where Alex Ovechkin (or anyone) will be putting up 100+ points regularly. That is why forward depth is so important in this day and age. At the same time, the Capitals have a more than formidable defense iced on a nightly basis.

    The 2009-10 Washington Capitals were viewed as the most dangerous team in franchise history, and the most likely shot at winning a Stanley Cup. The following six players were the defensemen used by the Capitals six years ago, on December 7th, 2009: Brian Pothier, Tom Poti, John Erskine, Jeff Schultz, Tyler Sloan, and Mike Green. That is a pretty astoundingly bad lineup, to say the least.

    Instead, the Capitals are now led by a defensive core of John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. Add in a dynamic pair of young, skilled blueliners in Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov, and the Capitals have one of the better defenses in the entire league.

    Alex Ovechkin has become a lock for around 20 power play goals every year. Currently, he sits with three. That would tend to be a major cause for concern, but the funny thing is that the Capitals are currently operating at 25.6% efficiency on the man advantage, which is higher than last year (25.3%). The fact is that the Washington Capitals simply have so many weapons, yet opponents still look to contain or focus on Ovechkin, leaving opportunities for everyone else.

    Barry Trotz still acknowledges that Ovechkin goes into “beast mode” on many nights. His shooting percentage (9.7%) is almost four percent lower than last years clip (13.4%), and if that goes back to the norm he will once again be on pace for close to 50. But Alex Ovechkin isn’t whining or complaining. Even though the scoring has diverted away from him slightly, he now chooses to quite literally assault his scoring teammates in joy as opposed to the boards and glass that he is usually jumping into.

    Alex Ovechkin has become a complete player, and he truthfully has been for some time under Barry Trotz. He is still one of the game’s true elite players. He still will be for at least a couple more years, if not longer.

    The Washington Capitals are probably in the midst of their best shot for a Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin is still leading the way. It would have been crazy to think this about three years ago, but Washington doesn’t need him to score 50 goals to get there.

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    But he will probably do it anyway.