Alex Ovechkin kept his pace for an 82-goal season intact against the Islanders which got me thinking: is 50 in 50 even close to a reality?
50 goals in the first 50 games is a rare feat indeed. It has only been done by five players: Maurice Richard in 1945. Mike Bossy in 1982. Lemieux in 1989. Brett Hull did it twice, and in back-to-back seasons no less (1990-1 and 1991-2). The Great One accomplished the feat three times: 1982, 1984 and again in 1985. So why not Ovechkin?
To estimate his chances I will use something called a Monte Carlo simulation. It starts with me using the shots on goal and shooting percentage for Ovechkin since he made his debut in the league 5 years ago to the last game of the regular season in 2009-10. Only regular season games were counted. For instance, he has only been held to zero shots on goal 3 out of 396 games, or .76% of the time. He has shot 20% in 32 of his regular season games, or 8.08% of the time.
Using this data, and Excel’s random number generator, I simulated goal-scoring totals for 50 games. Then, I ran this 50-game season 10,000 times and calculated the results.
Before I reveal the chances, take a guess at what you think they are. I’ll wait….
Ok, now that you have your guess, let’s look at the numbers.
Based on 10,000 50-game seasons in my cold, heartless math universe, Ovechkin will average 26 plus or minus 6 goals. He only hit the magical 50+ mark two times out of 10,000 – once with 58 goals and another with 53. He just missed the mark once with 49 goals in 50 games and 48 goals 4 other times.
For kicks I also ran this for an 82-game season when I saw NHL Hot Stove predicted Ovechkin would only score 37 goals. For an 82-game season, I have Ovechkin scoring on average 42 goals, plus or minus 8.
So ~68% of the time he should be between 34 and 50 goals. A 37-goal season looks light. I would take the over.