HASH(0xb3e958)

HASH(0xb3e958)

Can Ovechkin reach elusive 700 goals? Foligno’s big rebound; Canucks surge

Takeaways: A weekly spin around the NHL

Only seven players in the 100-year history of the NHL have ever scored 700 goals, and Alex Ovechkin may join them one day.

Ovechkin recently climbed past Stan Mikita on the all-time goals list and will soon pass the great Maurice “Rocket” Richard for 29th place. The 30-year-old captain of the Washington Capitals, with 543 career goals, could reach 24th in NHL history by season’s end â€” passing Mike Modano’s 561 goals â€” if he maintains his current scoring pace.

Barring catastrophe, Ovechkin will soon become only the 20th player ever to reach 600 goals — perhaps next season — but can he get to that elusive 700-club, which includes only Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801), Jaromir Jagr (756), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717), and Mike Gartner (708)?

Ovechkin is on pace for 38 goals this season, which would leave him only 137 shy of 700 with four years left on his current contract with the Capitals. If he played only those four years Ovechkin would need to average 34-35 goals to get to 700.

Five more years and that average dips below 30, at which point Ovechkin will be in his late 30s. 

Can he play that long and still remain productive?

Maybe, though not everyone has the moves like Jagr, the last player to reach 700. Jagr reached 27 goals last season at age 44.

Hull is probably the better comparable for Ovechkin. A like-minded shooter of wicked skill and power, Hull scored 25 goals at age 39 in his final full NHL season, which followed years of 37, 30, and 39 goals for the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.

Ovechkin’s downturn may just be underway, potentially complicating his run for 700.

The Rocket Richard trophy winner for four years running, Ovechkin is currently tied for ninth in goals, eight behind NHL leader Sidney Crosby, though still on pace for almost 40 following three consecutive 50-goal seasons.

On a per-game basis he’s scoring and shooting at the lowest levels of his career. Most notable is the drop-off in shots, particularly on the power play. He’s averaging a career-low 3.87 per-game after busting past five on average last season.

He’s still shooting about as efficiently as before (12 per cent), just a little less often, if still more than any other NHL forward this season.

His longer-term chase for 700 notwithstanding, Ovechkin last week tied Jagr for the most overtime goals (19) in history and needs just four points to become 37th player to record 1,000 with one franchise.

CAREER YEAR

Victor Hedman is quietly on pace for a career-high 72 points (a 25-point uptick from last year), second only to San Jose’s Brent Burns in scoring among NHL defencemen this season. Since Dec. 1 Hedman has collected 20 points in 18 games while averaging about 25 minutes per game for the Lightning.

COLUMBUS CAPTAIN’S TURNAROUND

Nick Foligno’s first season as Blue Jackets’ captain began with an 0-8-0 start and the firing of head coach Todd Richards. Foligno was among Columbus’s many slow starters, ultimately finishing the 2015-16 season with just 12 goals and 37 points following a career-best 31 goals and 73 points one year earlier.

Jackets’ general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Foligno was putting too much pressure on himself as Columbus’s leader.

“He’s since recovered very well and realized in many conversations that we’ve had that ‘Hey, it’s got to start by you doing on your own job, just concentrating on doing that well and leading by example and the rest of the stuff will come’,” Kekalainen said in a recent interview.

The 29-year-old scored his 14th goal of the year Sunday against the Flyers, the overtime winner in the Jackets’ 28th win (six shy of last season’s total). Foligno is up to 35 points, just three points from surpassing his lowly total from last year. 

SCHNEIDER’S STRUGGLES

Cory Schneider entered this season bettered only by Carey Price in save percentage since the draft day swap which sent the American goaltender from Vancouver to New Jersey. The 30-year-old has fallen off considerably though through the first half of his fourth season with the Devils.

Schneider was pulled for the first time this season against the Maple Leafs on Friday (three goals on five shots) and sits 24th in save percentage (.908) among the 35 goalies with at least 20 starts. His .912 mark at even-strength (with a slight uptick in shots) is a deep dive from the .933 showing he posted in each of the previous two seasons.

OUT WEST

An unlikely six-game win streak has pushed the Vancouver Canucks into the playoff mix, currently one point back of the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild card spot out west. The Canucks mustered the season-long string despite being outshot 201-139, with superb goaltending (mostly from Ryan Miller) fuelling the run.

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press