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Another 50-goal season puts Ovechkin in elite group

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

Alex Ovechkin continues to pile up milestones and memberships in exclusive clubs almost at the rate at which he is scoring goals.

Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the 2014-15 season Tuesday night for the Washington Capitals in a 4-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes. It is the sixth time he has scored that many in his prolific career.

The list is impeccable: Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy have nine 50-goal seasons, while Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne and now Ovechkin have six.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 50 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 77
SOG: 374 | +/-: 11
"Every year, it's harder and harder," Ovechkin said after the game Tuesday. "But it's a huge accomplishment with those names up there. It's always nice. But every year you don't know what to expect from yourself, how you are going to play."

What has made Ovechkin's prowess incredible is his ability to score so many so consistently in an era when defenses and goaltenders have been able to limit others from doing so.

Take these six members of the six-time 50-goal club. The other five players have combined for 36 individual seasons with 50 or more goals. All but one came in a season when teams averaged at least 3.0 goals per game, according to hockey-reference.com.

Lemieux scored 50 in 1996-97, when the League average for goals per game by teams was 2.92. Ovechkin has accomplished this five times. His rookie season, 2005-06, teams averaged 3.08 goals per game, but every other 50-goal campaign for Ovechkin has come when teams have averaged 2.91 goals per game or less.

"I hadn't been around anybody who's ever scored 50 goals in this League, especially the way it's so hard to score goals in this League," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "You know it's a part of history, a guy who scores 50 in this league right now the way the goal-scoring is. The goaltenders are so good in the National Hockey League."

There have been 56 seasons in the history of the NHL when teams averaged less than 3.0 goals per games. There have been 30 individual 50-goal seasons in those years.

Ovechkin has five of those 30 seasons, and easily has the most. Pavel Bure has three, while Bobby Hull, Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla, Steven Stamkos and John LeClair have two. Twelve other players have one.

It isn't just Ovechkin's ability to dominate in an otherwise offensively-challenged era. It is also the separation between him and his peers.

As Jon Press of Japers' Rink wrote Tuesday, Ovechkin's dominance compared to the next-best goal scorer of the past 10 years, Jarome Iginla, is among the best in League history. Ovechkin has 472 goals since he entered the NHL in 2005-06, which is 136 more than Iginla has in that span.

Ovechkin has averaged 0.63 goals per game since 2005-06. Two other players with at least 200 games played have averaged at least 0.5 per game, Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk (Iginla is eighth on that list at 0.44).

Scoring goals at 0.63 per game equates to 51.7 goals in an 82-game season. Stamkos, at 0.56, has scored at a 45.9 per 82 games rate in his seven NHL seasons. Kovalchuk, at 0.52 per game, scored at a 42.6 per 82 games rate in his eight seasons before leaving for the KHL.

If those three players all played 82 games in every season and scored at their per-game rates, Ovechkin would have 40 more goals than Stamkos since he entered the League and 72 more than Kovalchuk during his eight years in the NHL with Ovechkin.

Joining the six-time 50-goal club is just the latest exclusive group Ovechkin has earned admittance to. Earlier this season, he became the fifth player in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in each of his first 10 seasons. The others are Gretzky, Bossy, Mike Gartner and Jari Kurri.

He's about to lead the NHL in goals outright for a fifth time, which is something only four other players have done. That club includes Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito.

It's a longshot, considering the brilliance of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price this season, but it is possible Ovechkin could win the Hart Trophy for a fourth time in his career as well. Gretzky, Howe and Eddie Shore are the only other players with four or more League MVPs.

That would be another milestone and more exclusive company for Ovechkin, something he's getting pretty familiar with at this point in his career.

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