Arlington, VA – Alex Ovechkin began his 18th NHL training camp Thursday, focusing not on the 21 goals he would need to score to catch second-place Gordy Howe in NHL history, but again with the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup. Thinking more about the number of chances he has left to win.
“I’m at this age that personal goals are good, but we understand every year [you get closer] Until the end of your career,” said the 37-year-old forward. “So I just want to win. I want to be in the playoffs and fight for the cup.”
The Capitals have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for eight consecutive seasons and 14 of the past 15, but have not won a postseason series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. Washington lost to the Florida Panthers in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round. Last season, ending a history-making campaign, Ovechkin tied the NHL record with his ninth 50-goal season finish ahead of Marcel Dion (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagger (766). Rising from seventh to third place. Wayne Gretzky (894) and Howe (801) are 780 behind on the league’s goals list.
So, although the pursuit of Howe will be an important story for Ovechkin this season, it makes sense that his mind is on other things. It starts with helping Capitals get off to a good start to the regular season Niklas Backstrom (left hip resurfacing surgery) indefinitely and forward tom wilson (torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee) was sidelined until at least December.
“The most important thing is for everyone to be healthy, and we have to make it to the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “That first 20 games are very important so you have to [earn] Points, so if you’re going to have some ups and downs during the season you still have those points. … you don’t want to play only six months. You want to play for eight months and play for the Cup.”
Ovechkin played a big part in the Capitals going 17-5-6, while Backstrom missed the first 28 games of last season due to his hip. He had 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) during that period, on his way to finish with 90 points (50 goals, 40 assists), his highest since his 109 in 2009–10.
Although Ovechkin is a year older, Washington will require a similar production from him this season.
“I wouldn’t bet against him,” said general manager Brian McClellan. “I think he has a strong will and I think he knows what he wants to do and achieve, and usually does what he wants to do when he’s in that mood “
After spending the summer in his native Russia working with his personal trainer Pavel Burlachenko, Ovechkin reported to training camp in prime condition to score a run in his 10th 50-goal season that would break the NHL record he had set. Gretzky and Mike Bossi.
“He looks great,” said coach Peter LaViolet. “You wouldn’t know the difference since I came here [in 2020] And the way he looked now. Skate Test Today, he knocks it out of the park and comes to camp in great shape. Seeing the way they started last year, they came under fire. It’s just a credit to him and the way he trains and what he puts into it and how much it means to him.”
Ovechkin said he and Burlachenko made little changes to their off-season training schedules this summer, but not much.
“Obviously, every year we try to do something different, something else,” he said. “But right now, I’m very happy with how I’m in shape.”
Ovechkin optimistic about Capitals prospects after busy season when he signed darcy kumper A five-year, $26.25 million contract to become his No. 1 goalkeeper added on Conor Brown (business with the Ottawa Senators) and Dylan Strom (signed one-year, $3.5 million contract) to help fill the void created by Backstrom and Wilson’s injuries.
“We can’t look much further,” Ovechkin said. “Today we finished our skating test. That’s a good thing. Tomorrow is going to be a tough practice, so we’ll start from there.”
After playing against Ovechkin for 10 NHL seasons, Kumper is eager to play with him and holds a front-row seat, chasing the records of Howe and then Gretzky. Ovechkin has four seasons left in the five-year, $47.5 million contract he signed last summer.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of, and that kind of watching history unfolds,” Kumper said. “Just like a side story all season and watching him chase history is going to be fun to be a part of.”
defense personnel John Carlson Ovechkin has become accustomed to reaching milestones during his 13 seasons as his teammate, but he acknowledged that catching Howe, who held the NHL goalscoring record until Gretzky broke in 1994, would be different.
“It’s one thing to lead the league in scoring year after year, but now it looks like we’re talking the real stuff,” Carlsen said. “So, on the one hand, I’m kind of blind and stunned at how high he is on that list and how tangible it is. It feels like one thing after another during the season. Every day it’s something.”
For now, though, Ovechkin is putting aside his thoughts about Howe and the 21 goals needed to tie him down.
“Let’s wait,” he said. “I can’t score 21 goals in a game. I can’t, so let’s wait.”