It was only a matter of time and Sunday night was that time for Alex Ovechkin as he scored career goal No. 500. He did so at home in the Verizon Center against the Ottawa Senators on a top-shelf wrist shot. This is coming off the heels of him scoring the game-winning goal (his 499th) in overtime a night prior in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. He becomes the 43rd player in NHL history to reach the 500 goal plateau. He would add on to that and get goal No. 501 halfway through the third period. The crowd gave him a standing ovation upon achieving history, including his parents who were in attendance.
Against the Rangers on Saturday night, Ovechkin got things going for the Caps by scoring the first goal of the contest. The Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead before surrendering three unanswered goals. Nicklas Backstrom sent the game to overtime with a goal (his 13th of the season) with 5.7 seconds left in regulation. Ovechkin struck 1:25 into the overtime bringing him within a goal of the 500 club and bringing his team the win. He is the fifth fastest player to get to 500 goals and the only other names to reach 500 goals faster are Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647) and Brett Hull (693).
The Capitals have been on fire all season long, posting a record of 32-7-3 and a league-best 67 points. The Florida Panther – who have won 11 straight games – is the second closest team to the Caps in the East with 54 points. The New York Rangers have the second most points in the Metropolitan division with 49. The Dallas Stars have the second most points in the NHL with 62. Washington has won four in a row and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games, including the 7-1 throttling of the Senators on the night Ovechkin scored his 500th career goal. At the Verizon Center, where the Caps call home, they are 16-3-1 compared to 16-4-2 on the road. They are outscoring opponents 137-90. They rank second in the NHL in power play percentage with 25.6% and rank fifth in the NHL in penalty kill percentage at 85%.
Offensively the Caps are led by Ovechkin. Along with Ovi, two other players (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Backstrom) have at least 38 points with Backstrom leading the way with 41 points. Along with those three players, five players have point totals ranging from 22-27. Seven different players have scored double-digit goals this season, led by Ovechkin’s 26. This team has contributions from multiple different players this season and that is something that helps teams win the Stanley Cup.
The offense is good and so is the goaltending, mainly Braden Holtby, who is 27-4-2. To go along with his record, he has an NHL-best .932 save percentage and a league-best 1.93 goals against average. Great goaltending leads to a ton of success and the Caps will continue to benefit from Holtby’s strong play this season. If he can continue this throughout the duration of this season and into the postseason, head coach Barry Trotz will have his team seriously contending for the Stanley Cup this season.
The Caps are playing really good hockey right now and are a force to be reckon with this year. Now that Ovechkin has his historic milestone out of the way, look for him to zone in on a milestone that has alluded him thus far in his career, that being a Stanley Cup.
The Washington Capitals are arguably the best team in hockey and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.