Fifty goals in 50 games is one of the most impressive feats an NHL sniper can achieve. It’s only been done eight times in the history of the game and only five players have done it: Maurice Richard (1944-45), Mike Bossy (1980-81), Wayne Gretzky (1981-82, 1983-84 and 1984-85), Mario Lemieux (1988-89) and Brett Hull (1990-91 and 1991-92).
The 2013 NHL season will have 48 games but it still has hockey historians wondering whether anyone can achieve the remarkable act. The last time we saw a 48-game, lockout-shortened season was back in 1994-95. The leading scoring then was Peter Bondra, who finished with 34 goals in 48 games for the Washington Capitals.
It seems like an unattainable dream as the days of Gretzky are long gone. However, let’s do some wishful thinking and have a look at a few players that might be able to make it to 50 in 48 games:
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos has been consistently buzzing around the 50-goal barrier, scoring 51 in 2009-10, 45 in 2010-11 and a whopping 60 in 2011-12. That impressive number last season is what has fans wondering whether he can hit 50 in 48 games.
On the surface, it might seem like a stretch but he did average 0.73 goals per game last year and he finished even stronger with 16 goals in his last 19. He’s the truest form of an NHL sniper and if any defensemen or goaltenders are rusty after the lockout, this is one man who can take advantage.
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Playing without Sidney Crosby for most of the time last season, Malkin emerged as a league MVP candidate. He was very impressive growing into the role of a leader and that showed on the ice as he notched his first 50-goal season. If he can hit 50 goals in 75 games without Crosby, maybe he can get close to 50 with him for 48 games.
Malkin put up 23 goals in 37 games in the KHL while leading the league in points-per-game. He comes to the NHL in midseason form and if he can hit the ground running, maybe he can notch his second straight 50-goal season.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Many people feel that if there is one player that can reach 50 in a shortened season, it would be Crosby. Sid the Kid has had trouble staying healthy the last couple of seasons, but the lockout gave him a chance to fully recover. If he’s back at full strength, anything is possible.
Crosby had just eight goals in 22 games last season while battling concussion problems but the year before that, he had 32 goals in 41 games. We’ve seen him play through hot stretches before where he notches a goal per game, so maybe it’s not so crazy.
Can anyone else do it?
Fifty goals in 48 games seems like quite the pipe dream. How exciting would it be for a resurgent Alex Ovechkin or a red-hot Corey Perry to make the chase for 50? It’s the type of story the NHL needs after a bitter lockout but in this era, it doesn’t seem likely. Here’s to hoping, though.