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Capitals Sharing the Wealth

The Capitals have seven players with at least 18 goals this season, the most for any team in the league

by Zach Shapiro @ShapZach /

The NHL's most prolific scorer is at it again, steamrolling toward his eighth career 50-goal campaign, a feat only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy have accomplished more times (nine).

But make no mistake. Alex Ovechkin is hardly the only player finding the net for the Capitals this season.

Through 72 games in 2018-19, Washington has an NHL-leading seven players with at least 18 goals, the kind of scoring depth that makes a team particularly dangerous in a best-of-seven series.

"They'll do everything they can to stop (Ovechkin)," T.J. Oshie said. "But after him, we have other guys who can put the puck in the net. It's something to take going forward and good to know that guys are capable of scoring big goals at big moments."

"Last year, [scoring depth] was a big reason for why we won," said Brett Connolly, who's scored 10 of his career-high 19 goals this season since Feb. 5. "Everyone was chipping in offensively. Guys know that has to continue if we're to make another run, and I think they've played better recently, the last three or four weeks. They're starting to feel it again."

Nicklas Backstrom is supplementing another 50-assist campaign (he's at 49) with 18 goals of his own. Jakub Vrana (21 goals) is progressing as expected after the 23-year old broke out during the Stanley Cup playoffs last summer. Tom Wilson missed the first 16 games yet still managed to score his 20th on Thursday in Philadelphia, while T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov are dark horses to lead the team in points on any given night, so far with 21 and 18 goals, respectively.

What's more, the Capitals have nine players who have scored at least five goals since the start of February, as Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller have powered the third and fourth lines of late.

"That's what guys are most excited for, that chance to just go at it again, that depth scoring and getting contributions from everyone," Connolly said.

The abundance of scorers at one time isn't unusual for a talented team. Success is contagious, players said, as they compete with each other but also gain personal momentum from lifting their teammates.

"There's a lot of internal competition within the lineup and we're pushing each other every day," Connolly said. "And we've had a lot of guys play well this season."

"It creates a good chemistry within the group," Wilson said. "When someone gets to 20 goals, it's a team [accomplishment]. It's an individual stat but you're not getting there without your linemates. It shows how strong a group we have."

The Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, have six players with at least 18 goals, while the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins each have five. So while the Capitals still trail those few teams in the Eastern Conference, they'll rely on depth and creativity to put them over the top again.

"That was kind of our calling card last year," head coach Todd Reirden said. "Certainly, we've seen the importance of depth players who can play above where they're presently slotted. It's something we'll continue to find to increase our overall offensive production and create tougher matchups for our opponents.

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