Alex Ovechkin isn’t worried right now about missing out on scoring 50 goals again or moving closer to Wayne Gretzky’s NHL goals record.The Washington Capitals forward is tied with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins for the NHL lead with 48 goals, leaving him two away from his ninth 50-goal season. That would tie the NHL record for most 50-goal seasons shared by Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
Ovechkin is also two away from tying Mike Gartner for seventh in NHL history with 708 goals and 188 behind Gretzky’s record of 894 goals.
But after the NHL paused its season March 12 because of concerns about the coronavirus, chasing milestones is far down Ovechkin’s list of concerns.
“Of course, you want to score 50,” Ovechkin said during a video call arranged by the NHL on Thursday. “But right now, like everyone is saying, the most important thing is be stay safe and to get the thing done. It [stinks] to not score 50 and to not get another milestone, but you have to think about your family, people and fans to be more safe.
“I’m pretty sure the sooner this is going to be over, the sooner we’re going to start back playing hockey. It’ll be nice to score again 50 goals or reach those milestones, but right now our mind is on just trying to be safe.”
Ovechkin’s sentiment about safety being the priority was echoed by New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and New York Islanders forward Anders Lee, who each participated in the video call. Ovechkin has remained at his home in Virginia with his pregnant wife, Nastya, and 1-year-old son Sergei while waiting to see if the NHL will be able to resume the season.
“Staying home, keeping busy, lots of stuff to do in the house, you know, play with the little one,” Ovechkin said. “We are expecting another [baby] in a couple months, so try to do some workouts as well. But first week was kind of good thing, relaxing, chilling, and now it is kind of getting boring right now.”
When the NHL paused play, the Capitals had 13 regular-season games remaining, so it seemed inevitable that Ovechkin would score the two goals he needs to reach 50 again. At 34 years, 191 days old, Ovechkin was seeking to become the second-oldest NHL player with a 50-goal season behind Johnny Bucyk of the Bruins, who scored his 50th goal of the 1970-71 season at 35 years, 308 days before finishing with 51.
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If the NHL is able to resume play, it’s unknown if there will be enough time for regular-season games. When asked his preference, Ovechkin said he’d rather the NHL jump directly into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Capitals (41-20-8) are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, so they are in a good spot if that’s the case.
“For us, it’s better if the playoffs start right now. We don’t want to play those extra games,” Ovechkin said. “But for different guys who fight for a playoff spot, some guys want those extra games. Of course, the more games we play, it’s going to be better for the fans and it’s going to be better for the teams fighting for the playoffs, but I’d rather start the playoffs right away. Sorry, guys.”
But skipping to the start of the playoffs would mean falling short of another 50-goal season and deprive Ovechkin of 13 more regular-season games to add to his career goal total.
“I’m confident if we played another 13 games this season and Ovi plays, Ovi can get another 20 goals in that time,” Subban said.
Ovechkin, who scored his 700th goal Feb. 22 against the Devils, has 706 goals in 1,152 regular-season games in 15 NHL seasons. The Capitals captain has climbed from 13th in NHL history at the start of the season to eighth by passing Luc Robitaille (668 goals), Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694).
Gretzky, who retired in 1999, told NHL.com in January that he believes Ovechkin has “a real legitimate chance” of breaking his record.
Ovechkin also is in position to win the Rocket Richard Trophy as NHL leading goal-scorer for the ninth time. Bobby Hull is the only other player to lead the NHL in goals as many as seven times. But he’s not thinking about that now.
“It’s a scary situation,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a scary moment for people all around, not only us. You think about those little things, but as soon as you start thinking worldwide and what’s going on in the world, it’s scary. So my mind right now, it’s not about 50 goals or catching The Great One or somebody else. My mind right now is about doing the best what I can do or what my family can do to be safe and to get over it.”