After a summer of hearing about his “down season,” Alex Ovechkin has unleashed the offensive power in the Washington Capitals’ first two games of the season. He already has seven goals, recording back-to-back hat tricks. Ovechkin became the first player since 1917 to start the year of with two hat tricks.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 8, 2017
Admittedly for Ovechkin, 2015-16 was down from his usual output. After three straight seasons of 50+ goals, he ended with only 33. Calling 33 goals a “down season” would be ridiculous for anyone with the exception of Ovechkin. With the decreased offense we have in today’s NHL, scoring 30 goals is not as automatic as it has been in the past. His history of goal scoring success raised expectations for himself, and anything less than leading the league in goal scoring is a disappointment for Ovechkin.
Since his debut in 2005, no one has more goals. Ovechkin has a total of 565 goals in his career, 182 more than second place Sidney Crosby since his debut. In fact, no other player has reached 400 goals in that time span. Sixteen players have scored 300 goals since 2005, but Ovie is the only one to score more than 400. He is also the active NHL leader in hat tricks with 19 and in the top 20 all-time for hat tricks.
With his hot start, Ovechkin is already on pace to return to 50-goal form. Last season’s lull in production could be attributed to a dip in both shots on goal and shooting percentage. Last season was only the second season in his career that Ovechkin did not lead the league in shots. Typically, he hovers around 400 shots on goal with a career shooting percentage of 12.4 percent.
Shooting percentage is one of the best predictors of outlier seasons for players. Generally, if a player shot at a significantly lower or higher percentage than his career average, it can be assumed that it was a one-off season. Ovechkin’s 10.5 percent shooting percentage during last season is a significant enough difference from his average to suggest that his “down season” was more of a one-off than the new norm for the Capitals star.
Ovechkin still shoots the puck like no other in the NHL. His first goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday proves that. Just 20 seconds into the first period, Ovechkin took the spin shot shown above for the first of four total in the game. When the season’s end comes, we will be seeing this one up there for goal of the year. Ovechkin launched a top corner rocket without even seeing where he was shooting. His ability to put the puck precisely where he wants to, combined with his tendency to pepper the net with as many shots as possible, makes him the deadliest goal scorer in the NHL today. And, debatably, the most skilled shooter in NHL history.