When Alexander Ovechkin scored with 33 seconds left in regulation to tie Tuesday night’s game between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning at five goals a piece, everybody at Verizon Center was surely left with their jaws hanging. The rifle of a shot from the point that went over Ben Bishop‘s shoulder was Ovechkin’s fourth of the night, and capped off what seemed to be a statement from the superstar in a season full of them.
The Capitals would go on to win in a shootout, bringing the team to within seven points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan Division lead, and Ovechkin would bring his goal total to 26 in 29 games played. This gives the right winger the NHL lead by five, and puts him on pace for an astounding 71 goals.
And while only 37.8 percent of the 2013-14 season has been played, it does not seem outlandish at this point to openly wonder whether he can hit the 70-goal mark.
Throughout this season, Ovechkin has been remarkably consistent in his ability to score goals, with the occasional outburst rallying his goal total to the heights they are currently at. He has scored in 18 of 29 games played (62 percent) and has done it against good, bad and average opponents alike.
Additionally, Ovechkin has been firing pucks on net at a level that is not only sustainable, but is somewhat normal when compared to his career averages. He has averaged 5.38 shots per game, which puts him on pace for 430 shots on goal for the entirety of the 2013-14 season. While this may seem like a huge sum considering it would rank as the fourth-most shots on goal in NHL history, it doesn’t seem so crazy when two of the three top totals come from the superstar as he holds a career average of 5.09 shots on goal per game.
One thing that may seem out of whack for Ovechkin is the 16.7 percent shooting percentage that he currently holds, which is a career-high. However, when one considers that prior to scoring four goals on six shots on Tuesday night that he was at 14.7 percent, this percentage would only be 0.1 percent above a previous career high of 14.6, and only .2 percent above the he compiled just last season. It does not seem so strange, and appears sustainable.
Undoubtedly, some people will continue to think that the goal total Ovechkin is compiling is a fluke or can be explained by him giving his all simply to be in top form for the 2014 Olympics, which will be played in his home nation of Russia. These all seem like reasonable motivating factors.
He has been on a tear for since moving over to the right wing prior to the 2012-2013 season. He scored 19 goals in the final 21 games last season and 48 in the last 50 regular season games as a whole, and there is no sign of that stopping now.
The Capitals will continue to be reliant on Ovechkin’s services for the remainder of the 2013-14 season, and he will continue to reward them by scoring close to the 31.5 percent of the team’s goals maintained thus far this season. Whether it is an extra gear of speed, playing on the right wing or something else, he has found a gear that can not be reversed, and will end up becoming the first NHL player to score 70 goals in a season since Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne both did so in 1992-93.