Alex Ovechkin, commonly known as the Great 8, proved he was just that in yesterday’s 7-1 rout over the Ottawa Senators in Washington as he became the first Russian-born player to score 500 NHL goals. The goal came in the 2nd period while on the powerplay as Ovechkin sent an absolute sizzler of a shot under the bar in typical Ovechkin fashion, sending the home crowd into a standing ovation as he was mobbed by his teammates.
Ovechkin, who was playing in his 801st game, is the 5th fastest player to reach the milestone, only behind hall of famers Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Brett Hull. Ovechkin would also add his 501st on what proved to be a night to remember on an absolute highlight real goal, where he turned Senators’ star defenseman Erik Karlsson inside out and put yet another goal top shelf.
Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have been the faces of the league for over a decade now, but it feels like they are both still rookies. He couldn’t have come at a better time with his first NHL season being the first one after the lockout of the 2004-2005 season. The league needed a face and Ovechkin, almost more so than Crosby, has thrived in that role. From day one, Ovechkin has been everything the NHL needed and more from the electrifying highlight reel goals to the loveable personality. It is crazy to think about the fact that Ovechkin has already reached this milestone and that he has been in the league as long as he has been. For me, he is the first player that people my age can vividly remember beginning their career.
There is no doubt Ovechkin is one of the greatest goal scorers to lace up skates in the NHL, regardless of his postseason finishes. Obviously, Ovechkin is still on the hunt for that ever-so-elusive Stanley Cup and many think this is the year he will finally get it. As a person who has been very critical of him in the past, I can admittedly say that I am now with those people. I think that Ovechkin has finally turned that corner where he has matured and understands that it is going to take maximum effort, which has been a knock against him in the past, in order to achieve that ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. He has drifted into that rare category where no matter what team you are a fan of, you want to root for him and see him succeed.
At only the age of 30, Ovechkin is very well still in his prime and there is no doubt that he has the ability to go from one of the greats to the greatest. The most incredible part about what he has done so far is that he has done it in a era when scoring is near impossible. If you watch Gretzky highlights, he’s shooting on so much net it almost seems like it is harder to miss than it is to score. I know I am going to receive heat for saying this, but Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer ever (yes, I said ever. As in better than Gretzky.), and although a long shot, I hope he passes Gretzky for the most career goals to solidify that.