Alex Ovechkin and the quest for 70 goals

Greg Fiume

Alex Ovechkin is doing something pretty special this season in Washington, and he has an outside shot at doing something that hasn't been done in the NHL since 1992-93.

The NHL hasn't seen a 70-goal scorer since the 1992-93 season when both Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny did it.

Through the first quarter of the 2013-14 season Alex Ovechkin seems to have a good sporting chance of being the next one.

With his two-goal effort in the Capitals' 3-2 loss to Montreal on Friday, Ovechkin is already up to 19 goals for the season, which means he would need 51 over the remaining 59 games to reach the mark. If that seems like it's asking an awful lot, that's because it it is. But if there is a player in the NHL right now that's capable of doing it, this is the guy. Keep in mind that in Ovechkin's last 59 games, dating back to last season, he's scored 49 goals. It's not like he isn't capable of going on such a run.

Let's do the math on what it's going to take (assuming he remains healthy and plays in each of the Capitals' final 59 games) for him to become just the ninth different player in league history to score 70 goals in a single season.

The key thing for Ovechkin this season is the number of shots he's generating, averaging 5.57 per game, a number that would be the second highest of his career. If he maintains that pace and continues to score on 16.8 percent of his shots, he would get another 55 goals this season. That would give him a total of 74, which would be the eighth highest single season total in league history.

If he pulls that off, it would be one of the best seasons ever. Not necessarily for the sheer volume of goals, but for the era in which it's happening. All of the other 70-goal seasons in league history took place in years where the average game featured close to -- or more than -- seven goals per game. In 2013-14, the average game has 5.47. Offense just isn't what it used to be. Even a 50-goal season these days is rare. There just aren't as many goals to go around for a variety of reasons -- better goaltending, a style of play that isn't anywhere near as wide open, etc.

Player Season Goals League Goals Per Game
Wayne Gretzky 1981-82 92 8.03
Wayne Gretzky 1983-94 87 7.89
Brett Hull 1990-91 86 6.91
Mario Lemieux 1988-89 85 7.48
Phil Esposito 1970-71 76 6.24
Alexander Mogilny 1992-93 76 7.25
Teemu Selanne 1992-93 76 7.25
Alex Ovechkin (projected) 2013-14 74 5.47
Wayne Gretzky 1984-85 73 7.77
Brett Hull 1989-90 70 7.37
Jari Kurri 1984-85 71 7.77
Wayne Gretzky 1982-83 71 7.73
Brett Hull 1991-92 70 6.96
Mario Lemieux 1989-90 70 7.47
Bernie Nichols 1988-89 70 7.48

The problem is going to be maintaining that 16.8 shooting percentage. As great as Ovechkin's shot is, and for as dominant as he's been throughout his career, he's never finished a season with a percentage higher than 14.8 percent (and even that is incredibly high) and his career average is 12.3 percent. If he keeps generating the same number of shots and scores on 14 percent the rest of the way, that would put him on track for 49 goals, giving him 65 for the season, the same as his previous career high.

If he simply shoots at his career average of 12.3 percent that would put him on a path for 60 goals, something that's been done by just two players (himself, and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos) since 1996.

Either way, he's doing something pretty special this season.

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