Photo credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin probably won’t hit 50 goals in 50 games. Even with his four-goal night against the Tampa Bay Lightning the other night, his chances of hitting 50 goals in his last 50 regular season games seems unlikely. Going by the NHL standard (and arbitrary) definition of 50 goals in a team’s first 50 games of a season, it’s even more unlikely.
But that shouldn’t lessen what he’s is doing right now. Ovechkin’s 2013-14 season could be historic yet.
Ovi is unlikely to score the “true” 50-in-50 this year, but he could come pretty close. Right now, he has 26 goals in 31 games, 29 of which he played (Ovechkin missed two games to injury). He’s currently on pace to score 42 goals through game 50.
Only five players have reached the historic 50-in-50 milestone. No one has done it since Brett Hull in 1992.
These achievements came in high-scoring eras: the 40s and the 80s/early 90s. After Hull hit 50-in-50 in 1992, league-wide scoring took a big dip from 7.253 goals per game in 1993-94 to 5.973 goals per game in 1995-96. Even though it ticked up after that, scoring has been trending down– all the way to the 5.136 in 2003-04– the height of the “dead puck” era and the lowest average since 1955-56.
This year’s goal-scoring average is 5.284, which makes Ovechkin’s prolific season all the more impressive. A goal in 2013-14 is more valuable than a goal in the 80s because there are so fewer of them to go around. Here’s how Alex’s pace stacks up against the rest of the league.
|Maurice Richard||1944-45||50 G in 50 GP||8.167||0.647||32.350||32.350|
|Mike Bossy||1980-81||50 G in 50 GP||7.688||0.687||34.365||34.365|
|Wayne Gretzky||1981-82||61 G in 50 GP||8.025||0.658||32.922||40.165|
|Wayne Gretzky||1983-84||61 G in 50 GP||7.889||0.670||33.490||40.857|
|Wayne Gretzky||1984-85||53 G in 50 GP||7.771||0.680||33.998||36.038|
|Mario Lemieux||1988-89||54 G in 50 GP||7.483||0.706||35.307||38.131|
|Brett Hull||1990-91||52 G in 50 GP||6.911||0.765||38.229||39.758|
|Brett Hull||1991-92||50 G in 50 GP||6.958||0.759||37.971||37.971|
|Alex Ovechkin*||2013-14||42 G in 50 GP||5.284||1||50||42|
* On pace for.
Legend: GP – games played by a player’s team; S/G – average scoring per game in the season of achievement; 1GEq – the 2013-14 equivalent of one goal scored in the season of achievement; 50GEq – 2013-14 equivalent of 50 goals scored in the season of achievement; ResEq – equivalent of the player’s output in 2013-14 goals.
Based on these data, even the most elite scorers in league history would have a hard time hitting 50-in-50 in 2013-14. Goals just aren’t that easy to come by anymore. The closest would be Gretzky’s 61 goals in 1983-84, which would convert to 41 goals today. If Ovi hits 42, well… that’ll be history.
Average scoring data from QuantHockey.