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Analytics say Ovechkin one of top goal-scorers ever

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals became the 43rd player in NHL history to score 500 career goals when he scored a goal against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

Let's break down the numbers behind where Ovechkin's goals have come from, where he ranks among history's other great goal-scorers, and how many more he might score in the future.

Among NHL franchises, the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets have been most victimized by Ovechkin's scoring prowess, with the Great Eight scoring 43 goals in 59 games against them.

Ovechkin's Career Goal Scoring, by Opponent
Team GP Goals Goals/GP
Atlanta/Winnipeg 59 43 0.73
Tampa Bay 60 40 0.67
Florida 54 33 0.61
Toronto 38 31 0.82
Carolina 64 30 0.47
Philadelphia 38 29 0.76
Pittsburgh 41 27 0.66
NY Islanders 38 27 0.71
Buffalo 38 26 0.68
NY Rangers 42 26 0.62
Ottawa 36 22 0.61
Montreal 38 22 0.58
New Jersey 38 18 0.47
Boston 38 17 0.45
Columbus 19 12 0.63
Detroit 17 10 0.59
Anaheim 11 9 0.82
Calgary 12 9 0.75
Edmonton 12 9 0.75
Chicago 11 8 0.73
Nashville 11 8 0.73
St. Louis 11 7 0.64
San Jose 13 7 0.54
Minnesota 8 6 0.75
Dallas 11 6 0.55
Vancouver 11 6 0.55
Los Angeles 11 5 0.45
Arizona 10 4 0.40
Colorado 11 4 0.36
Credit: Elias Sports Bureau

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, has allowed 20 of Ovechkin's goals, the most by any goalie.

With 43 of Ovechkin's goals scored against the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise, it's no surprise that Lundqvist is followed by former Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen, now of the Dallas Stars, who has allowed 19 of Ovechkin's goals, and current Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who is tied with Ryan Miller of the Vancouver Canucks and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins with 18 goals allowed.

Ovechkin's Career Goals, by Opposing Goalie
Goalie Goals
HENRIK LUNDQVIST 20
Kari Lehtonen 19
Ondrej Pavelec 18
Ryan Miller 18
Marc-Andre Fleury 18
Cam Ward 15
Carey Price 12
Ben Bishop 10
Credit: Elias Sports Bureau

Lundqvist also was the goalie who allowed Ovechkin's 100th goal, and Lehtonen was the goalie when Ovechkin broke Sergei Fedorov's record for the most NHL goals by a Russian-born player on Nov. 19.

The following table features Ovechkin's most significant goal-scoring milestones. Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes was in net when Ovechkin scored his 400th goal on Dec. 20, 2013, and when he recorded his sixth 50-goal season on March 21, 2015.

Ovechkin's Goal-Scoring Milestones
Milestone Date Goal Number Opponent Goalie
1st goal Oct. 5, 2005 1 Columbus Pascal Leclaire
100th goal Oct. 12, 2007 100 NY Rangers Henrik Lundqvist
200th goal Feb. 5, 2009 200 Los Angeles Jonathan Quick
300th goal April 5, 2011 300 Toronto James Reimer
400th goal Dec. 20, 2013 400 Carolina Cam Ward
Sixth 50-goal season March 31, 2015 472 Carolina Cam Ward
Capitals franchise record April 2, 2015 473 Montreal Carey Price
Most goals for Russian-born player Nov. 19, 2015 484 Dallas Kari Lehtonen
500th Goal JAN. 10, 2016 500 OTTAWA ANDREW HAMMOND

Ovechkin's long-time linemate Nicklas Backstrom has assisted on 183 of his goals, 113 more than defenseman Mike Green, now of the Detroit Red Wings, who's in second place.

Ovechkin's Career Goals, by Assists
Assist to: Assists
Nicklas Backstrom 183
Mike Green 70
Alexander Semin 45
John Carlson 44
Marcus Johansson 44
unassisted 27
Dainius Zubrus 26
Brooks Laich 26
Viktor Kozlov 21
Jeff Schultz 19

There's a real balance in Ovechkin's goal-scoring history. Breaking down all of his goals, there are really no manpower situations, opponents, or times of the game and season where he hasn't scored:

· 501 goals in 801 games

· 312 goals at even strength, 185 on the power play, 4 shorthanded

· 94 first goals of the game

· 147 goals in the first period, 158 in the second period, 180 in the third period, and 16 in overtime

· 85 game-winning goals

· 25 empty-net goals

· 2 goals on penalty shots

· 253 goals in 402 home games, and 248 in 399 road games

· 351 goals in 423 wins, 101 goals in 275 regulation-time losses, and 49 in 103 overtime losses

· 376 in 608 games before the All-Star break, and 125 in 193 games after the break.

· 395 in 636 games against Eastern Conference teams, 106 in 165 against Western Conference teams

Where does Ovechkin rank in all of history? In absolute terms, he may be the 43rd player to reach 500 career goals, but once adjusted for the different scoring levels of each era, he already has earned a spot in the top 20.

This adjustment, described in the recent analysis of Jarome Iginla's 600th goal, involves dividing a player's individual goals by the average goals per game of that season, and then multiplying it by the modern-day average of 5.35 goals per game.

A look at peak scoring suggests Ovechkin's ranking is even higher, and arguably second only to Brett Hull. In this case, peak scoring is defined as every player's best three consecutive seasons, adjusted for era.

At his peak, from ages 22 through 24, Ovechkin scored 171 goals from 2007-08 to 2009-10, equivalent to 164 goals at today's scoring levels. Since the 1967-68 season, only Hull, who scored 228 goals between 1989-90 and 1991-92, which adjusts to 172 goals by today's standard, had a higher peak scoring rate than Ovechkin.

Peak Three-Season Era-Adjusted Goal Scoring, 1967-68 to 2015-16
Player Career Era-Adjusted Goals Peak Scoring
Brett Hull 625 172
Alex Ovechkin 483 164
Wayne Gretzky 644 164
Steven Stamkos 287 153
Phil Esposito 485 152
Mario Lemieux 535 150
Pavel Bure 394 148
Teemu Selanne 634 146
John LeClair 378 141
Peter Bondra 461 138

Looking forward, how many more goals will Ovechkin score? Given he became the fourth-youngest of the 43 players to score 500 career NHL goals, there still is plenty of time for Ovechkin to reach several more milestones.

Fastest 500-Goal Scorers, All-Time
Age Player Games
25 Wayne Gretzky 575
30 Mario Lemieux 605
28 Mike Bossy 647
32 Brett Hull 693
30 Alex Ovechkin 801
32 Phil Esposito 803
32 Jari Kurri 833
31 Bobby Hull 861
36 Maurice Richard 863
31 Marcel Dionne 887

Using the average scoring decrease of history's other great goal-scorers as they aged, the following chart estimates what Ovechkin's scoring may look like throughout his 30s. His previous seasons are recorded in blue, the current season prorated to 82 games is marked in red, after which the estimates are marked in gray.

If this is accurate, then Ovechkin, 30, could score his 600th goal late in the 2017-18 season, and his 700th late in the 2019-20 season.

If his scoring continues into his mid-30s, Ovechkin could pass Brett Hull, currently third all-time, by the end of the 2020-21 season. Even if Ovechkin's scoring does drop off at age 38 as predicted, he still could reach the 800-goal milestone by age 38, just one back of the legendary Gordie Howe (801).

Exploring all of the numbers behind Ovechkin's 500 goals reveals just how tremendous this achievement is, and how many more milestones he is likely to reach in the coming seasons.

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