Will Alex Ovechkin Join the NHL’s 50 Goals in 50 Games Club This Season?

Capitals Jets HockeyAlexander Ovechkin is one of the best goal scorers of his era and a three-time winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy, but there’s one scoring achievement he has yet to accomplish — 50 goals in 50 games.

There are five players in NHL history who have scored 50 times in their team’s first 50 games, and the most recent forward to show this level of scoring excellence was Brett Hull in 1991-92. Hull and Wayne Gretzky are the only players to ever score 50 goals in 50 games more than once.

With a league-leading 26 goals in 31 games, does Ovechkin have a legitimate chance to join the 50-in-50 club?

Well, to accomplish this feat, a player has to score in just about every game, and Ovechkin has performed near a goal-per-game pace going back to the middle of last season. He has found the back of the net 48 times in his last 50 regular-season games, including goals in 16 of 29 games he’s played this year (the Capitals as a team have played 31). The 28-year-old winger also has six multi-goal games, including a stunning four-goal performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

One reason why Ovechkin has a good chance to reach 50-in-50 is the amount of goals he scores on the power play. Washington has the third-best power play in the league with a 24.4 percent success rate, and it’s earned the third-most opportunities (119) with the man advantage.

Ovechkin has 11 power-play goals, which is halfway to his career-high of 22 that he tallied during his 65-goal season in 2008-09. Most of the Russian forward’s goals on the power play come from his powerful one-time shot inside the left faceoff circle, and the entire Capitals power-play is built around getting Ovechkin the puck in this area. It also helps that Washington has an elite playmaking center in Nicklas Backstrom to feed Ovechkin the puck during even strength and on the power play. Backstrom has five seasons of 40-plus assists on his NHL resume, and his resurgence as a No. 1 center has helped to create more quality scoring chances for Ovehckin.

To score 50 goals in 50 games, Ovechkin needs to score 24 times in the next 19 games because the NHL only recognizes 50-in-50 when it’s done in the team’s first 50 games. For example, Cam Neely‘s 50 goals in 44 games during the 1993-94 season is not recognized as an official 50-in-50 because he accomplished it in the Bruins’ 66th game of that year.

Even though scoring 50-in-50 will be difficult, Ovechkin has a decent chance of reaching this mark because he takes so many shots (league-leading 156) and plays a ton of minutes (21:13 of TOI ranks seventh among NHL forwards). He’s taken 17 percent of all Washington’s shots this year, and with a league-leading 5:07 of power-play ice time per game, Ovechkin will get all of the opportunities needed for a chance at 50-in-50.

At the start of last season, Ovechkin was struggling and some fans and media members asked if his days as an elite scorer had come to an end. That debate is over, and credit Ovechkin for rediscovering his goal-scoring form and becoming the league’s most exciting player again.

Follow Nicholas Goss on Twitter here.

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