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Behind The Numbers

Odds breakdown for Rocket Richard race

Where top contenders stand in quest for NHL goal-scoring title

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 44 goals and the Washington Capitals forward is the odds-on favorite to win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.

His primary challenger is Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine, who's scored 43 goals but was injured blocking a shot Tuesday and is out at least the next two games. There was a 31.7 percent chance he'd catch or pass Ovechkin, and those chances will drop with every game Laine misses.

Laine's injury also increases the chances that someone else could get hot and pass them both, like Evgeni Malkin, who scored No. 41 in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Let's break down the numbers of each leading candidate for the Rocket Richard Trophy.


Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

44 goals, 9 games remaining

Ovechkin could lead the NHL in goals for fifth time in the past six seasons and the seventh time in his career. That would tie him for most wall-time with Bobby Hull.

Based on every set of nine consecutive games in Ovechkin's NHL career, there is a 61.6 percent chance he will score 4-7 goals in Washington's last nine games, which would give him 48-51 goals this season.

There is a 46.4 percent chance Ovechkin will reach 50 goals for the eighth time in his NHL career. Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky share the record of nine times.

Video: DAL@WSH: Ovechkin passes Kurri with 602nd goal


Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

43 goals, 9 games remaining

Laine was coming on strong, leading the NHL with 20 goals in 22 games since Feb. 1, scoring on 30.8 percent of his shots during that time. If he catches Ovechkin, he will become the second-youngest player to lead the NHL in goals after Rick Nash, whose 41 goals at age 19 tied Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk in 2003-04. 

Laine has 10 goals in his past nine games, which would give him a 96.0 percent chance of winning the race if it continues. Based on his data over two NHL seasons, there is a 77.4 percent chance he'll score no more than five goals in nine games, and he is expected to miss at least a couple of games.

Laine's chances drop to 26.2 percent missing one game, to 21.3 missing two, and to 16.4 percent if he misses three.

Video: DAL@WPG: Laine extends point streak with PPG


Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

41 goals, 8 games remaining

If Laine misses three games, the probability that neither he nor Ovechkin will reach 48 goals increases from 10.6 percent to 15.9 percent. That opens the possibility that Malkin, who leads the League with 27 goals in 34 games in 2018, will finish first.

Malkin scored 15 goals in 13 games from Jan. 25 to Feb. 24 but has returned closer to his usual scoring rate since then with five goals in 11 games. Based on his NHL career results, there's a 2.1 percent chance he'll score nine goals in his remaining games and match his NHL career high of 50 goals, set in 2011-12.

Whether Malkin reaches 50 or not, there is a 5.0 percent chance he'll catch and/or pass Ovechkin and Laine for the lead; that increases to 6.4 percent if Laine misses three games.

Video: PIT@MTL: Malkin blasts home one-timer for PPG


Other possibilities

Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, Eric Staal of the Minnesota Wild, and William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights each has 39 goals; Seguin has eight games left, Staal and Karlsson each has nine. Even if Laine misses several games, there's a 95.6 percent chance they'll need at least eight goals to at least tie for first. The chances are highest for Seguin (2.8 percent). 

The upside is greatest for Staal, who scored 11 goals in nine games from Feb. 22 to March 9. If he can repeat that, he would reach 50 goals in the NHL for the first time and increase his chances of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy to 55.9 percent.

For Karlsson, the key is to maintain his League-high 23.5 shooting percentage (minimum 100 shots). Prior to this season, Karlsson's shooting percentage was 7.7 percent in the NHL and 7.9 percent in the American Hockey League.

Long shot possibilities include Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (38 goals, nine games remaining) and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (37 goals, nine games remaining). Kucherov scored 17 goals in his first 19 games and 20 in his next 52.

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