Puck Daddy Countdown: Let’s take a second to appreciate Ovechkin

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3637/" data-ylk="slk:Alex Ovechkin">Alex Ovechkin</a>’s scoring prowess may even be under-appreciated. (Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin’s scoring prowess may even be under-appreciated. (Getty Images)

6. The Canucks

The local MLS team in Vancouver planned a giveaway of free tickets for every goal the Canucks scored against the Kings on Monday.

The Canucks lost 3-0.

I can’t think of a better way than that to summarize what being a Canucks fan must be like.

5. Being extremely injured

I made a joke in the Power Feelings yesterday about how the Bruins had Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug all out of the lineup on Sunday against Chicago and then I was thinking about it, and I was like “Holy crap half the good players on three-quarters of the playoff teams in this league are injured right now.”

Winnipeg has been a M*A*S*H* unit all season, Auston Matthews has been out for a while, Martin Hanzal and Ben Bishop are on the shelf in Dallas, same for Marcus Johansson and Travis Zajac in New Jersey. The Flyers only got Petr Mrazek because they haven’t had two healthy NHL goalies in a month. Matt Murray’s out, as is Bryan Rust. Joe Thornton hasn’t played since late January. Ondrej Palat is in the same boat. James Neal and Reilly Smith. Erik Johnson and Colin Wilson.

Guess it’s better to be injured now, with like 12 games left on the schedule, than when the playoffs are well and truly right around the corner, but this sure is gonna make the playoff races, umm, interesting.

4. A stunning revelation

Didn’t see this getting a lot of play the past 24 hours but how about the kinda casual revelation that, ah, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson had been traded to a Western Conference team and the deal was basically 100 percent done, the day before the deadline?

The implication in the article is that Pierre Dorion bailed on the deal, but it basically guarantees that these two will have to be a package deal for anyone that wants Karlsson at the draft. And then it says if the Senators can’t move Ryan in a Karlsson trade, they’re likely to buy him out?

How is all this happening now???

3. The playoff bubbles

Speaking of playoff races, all that stuff from a few months ago about “Most of the spots are taken” pretty much came to pass.

What we have now are seven teams, more or less, playing for five playoff spots. I’ve been willing to call the top three in the Atlantic since Christmas, and I am now willing to extend that to the Central as well. Nashville and Winnipeg have been locked in for a while, and the Wild are in good enough shape — three up on Dallas — that I feel good enough about them staying there given how well they’ve been playing (see yesterday’s Power Feelings).

But in the East, I can see Columbus (maybe but probably not) passing Philly, meaning those two, the Devils, and the Panthers are all jockeying for No. 3 in the Metro and both wild card spots. Tough break for Florida there, since they’re hoping only for a wild card spot against three teams that are very obviously better than them, but their goalies are suddenly playing so well that it’s a definite possibility.

And in the West, it’s Dallas, Colorado, and Anaheim in the conversation. You might be able to extend that to the Blues (a point back of both the Ducks and Avs), but I can’t do that in good faith.

These are basically the only teams worth watching the rest of the way.

2. Patrik Laine

Okay so Patrik Laine rules because he is scoring at a historic rate for a teenager in the NHL, in the era when scoring is literally the hardest it has ever been or (in theory) ever will be.

He’s shooting 20-plus percent this season and that’s after shooting 17 percent last year. Both are high even for elite shooting talents, but the number of times you’ve seen him blow a shot past an unscreened goalie from 45 feet out is in the dozens, and that probably portends good things for his long-term scoring rates. This isn’t like a pitcher whose stuff is electric on first appearance but it takes two trips around the league before the middle of the order is eating his lunch.

He’s scoring half a goal a game by shooting 19 percent over two seasons, and you’d probably like him to start getting more than three shots on goal per game. But he’s still more than a month away from his 20th birthday and, to contextualize things a bit, Alex Ovechkin played exactly zero games in the NHL as a teenager.

Not that we can reasonably assume Laine’s gonna start scoring 50 every season for more than a decade — Ovechkin pretty much has, averaging 49.7 every 82 games for his entire career — but if he can even be in the neighborhood of 40 a year, the extra two seasons in the league scoring goals make an assault on 600 at least plausible. If he scores at roughly this rate (44.5 goals per 82 games) and plays an average of 75 games a year, he should hit 600 by the time he’s 33 or so. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that the Jets are gonna get better and he’s not even close to his prime production years. I feel like 33 might be conservative.

But also, Patrik Laine rules because when they asked him about being on the ice for Ovechkin’s 600th goal, he basically said, “Yeah it rules being a minus. I love that.” and he was eating pizza while he did it.

This guy is my guy.

1. Alex Ovechkin

Apart from the fact that #600vi is a dumb hashtag — how am I supposed to pronounce that, exactly? — my heart was full when Alex Ovechkin scored his 599th and 600th goals.

All the haters have now been eradicated, to the point that we’re literally seeing articles published asking if Alex freaking Ovechkin can pass Wayne Gretzky’s goal total. He’s still almost 300 away from it and it’s now not-implausible to people. Now, these are people with overactive imaginations in all likelihood, but the fact that Ovechkin even allows people to consider an assault on Gretzky’s record is bananas.

And Ovechkin is playing in an era when goalies are the size of houses and coached hard on the position from a young age; goaltending is more or less boiled down to a science at this point. Meanwhile, Gretzky was taking low-80s wrist shots along the ice from the hashmarks and beating barely cognizant goalies in a time when the league leader in save percentage pulled down like a .898. I’m not joking, by the way. The year Gretzky scored 92, the league-average save percentage was .873.

(And I know the gap between how Gretzky scored back then and how everyone else did was much bigger than even Ovechkin at his all-time peak was, but goalies couldn’t stop traffic back then. It was pathetic.)

It’s trite to say it because of how much the game has changed, but if you put Alex Ovechkin in a time machine, he literally kills Chico Resch with a one-timer. Ninety-two goals would be a pittance to him. This is a guy who scored 65 goals — SIXTY-FIVE!!!!!! — when the league average was 36 points higher than it was for Gretzky’s best scoring year.

Ovechkin will almost certainly never approach 900; he would need to play another seven years at this level of production, in all likelihood. But his scoring prowess is more impressive to me than what Gretzky did.

And he will probably hit 700, which is incredible. What a player.

(Not ranked this week: Glen Gulutzan

Man I’m still thinking about how sad that performance in practice was the other day. The Flames gotta do something about this guy.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

Source: Yahoo Sports

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