ARLINGTON, Va. –Alex Ovechkin said he usually doesn’t take time to think about his legacy. He’s too busy writing it.But being on the verge of becoming the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals has caused the Washington Capitals forward to pause briefly to consider where he fits among the greats of the game.
“I try not to think about it, to be honest with you, because I’m still playing,” Ovechkin said. “I’m still trying to do more things that I’m capable of. But sometimes you start thinking about it and you’re like, ‘Holy … It’s pretty big numbers.’ Not lots of guys do that. To be top 10 of all-time and right now top eight, it’s pretty good.”
Two goals from 700, Ovechkin will take his first shot at getting there against the Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSWA, NBCSP, NHL.TV).
Ovechkin, who has 698 goals in 1,137 regular-season games, would join Wayne Gretzky (894 goals), Gordie Howe (801), Jaromir Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Mike Gartner (708) as the only players to reach the milestone.
“Obviously, it’s going to happen sometime,” he said. “I hope it’s next game, but if not, it’s OK. I have another one.”
If Ovechkin doesn’t get to 700 on Saturday, the 34-year-old’s next chance would come against the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena on Monday. After that game, Washington embarks on a three-game road trip to play the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 15 and the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 17.
Ovechkin scored his 500th goal (vs. Ottawa Senators, Jan. 10, 2016) and his 600th (vs. Winnipeg Jets, March 12, 2018) at home and would like to continue that trend.
“Yeah, obviously, the fans want to see it,” he said. “The fans want to celebrate. It’s a pretty big moment.”
Ovechkin has had a bunch of big moments already this season. Over the past four weeks, he’s passed Teemu Selanne (684 goals), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694) to jump from 12th to eighth on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
Although Ovechkin is in his 15th NHL season, he continues to find ways to do things he’s never done before. In a 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, he scored three straight goals in a span of 4:24 in the final 6:10 of regulation to lead the Capitals to victory after they trailed 2-1.
Video: Ovechkin passes Messier on the all-time goals list
It was the quickest three goals of his career and the first natural hat trick of his career. With 14 goals in his past seven games, including three hat tricks, Ovechkin has reached 40 goals for the 11th time and is one ahead of Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the League lead.
“He’s just such a generational talent and I don’t know if there will ever be someone that can do this again,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “So people that come every night just realize how lucky they are to be there and let’s hope it gets done at Capital One (Arena).”
In lamenting how the Kings let the game Wednesday slip away, defenseman Drew Doughty called Ovechkin “the best goal-scorer in our generation by a mile.” No one with the Capitals would argue with that.
But, like Ovechkin, they’re in no rush to define his legacy. They anticipate there’s more to come, particularly his pursuit of Gretzky’s record of 894 goals.
“Obviously, he’s going to be right up there with the greatest of all time,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “We know what kind of impact he’s had on this city and on this organization, so it will just be impressive to watch what he can still accomplish.”
Ovechkin appreciates that Gretzky and the five other living members of the 700-goal club, as well as the late Gordie Howe’s son Mark, have said they believe he can break Gretzky’s record. He said last season that he’s going to try to break it, but he remains reserved when talking about his chances.
“It’s nice, but still almost 200 goals to score,” Ovechkin said. “So, we’ll see how it goes.”
Video: LAK@WSH: Ovechkin completes hat trick
Ovechkin has been preparing to reach 700 goals by collecting the pucks and sticks from each of the goals he’s scored since 690. He plans to add the gloves from his 700th to his extensive memorabilia collection as well.
“To be honest with you, right now I have a lot and my wife tells me to stop,” Ovechkin said. “We don’t have any space in our gym. But it’s great for my family, kids, grandkids when I’m going to be dead. My kids are going (to know) who did it and appreciate it.”
Ovechkin’s 1-year-old son Sergei is too young now to be able to remember any of this and Ovechkin said he’s unsure what he’ll tell Sergei about it when he’s older. If Ovechkin plays long enough to break Gretzky’s record, maybe Sergei will have some memory of that, but he’s been hesitant to say how many years he wants to play beyond his current contract, which expires after next season.
“For me, the most important thing is I want to be healthy,” Ovechkin said. “I want to play with him when he’s going to be 8 or 10. Play hockey, play soccer, play basketball. It’s what I can do after my career. You just have to think about it that way, too.”
At the moment, Ovechkin’s focus is on getting to 700 quickly. Then, he and the Capitals can move on and get ready for a possible run at winning the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.