Alex Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing down

first_imgIn his 14 years in the league, Ovechkin’s play hasn’t faltered over time. With 658 career goals, he’s become the league’s 13th all-time leading goal scorer. The Russian has also never posted below 30 goals in one season (his career low is 32). Not even in the lockout year when limited to 48 games.MORE: Ovechkin to serve as NHL ambassador in ChinaNow 33, Ovechkin’s still the same kid he was when he entered the league in 2005; still sporting those yellow skate laces and missing a tooth. He plays the same style: throwing his weight around and boasting a signature shot that makes him one of the league’s biggest threats on offense. So far, he remains unfazed by age; showing no signs of slowing down. And that comes as no surprise to his teammates.”I just don’t know like a cut-off date on things like that,” defenseman John Carlson said of Ovechkin’s performance. “It seems like we’ve kind of been answering those questions for a couple years and the next year, it’s a new spin on ‘Ovi’s still great.’ I just, I don’t know. I can’t see it. Not next year.”Already a generational talent with a Hall-of-Fame worthy career, one has to ask: Can he keep it going?The same question was posed at the start of last season. Last June, the captain finally hoisted the Stanley Cup and brought the franchise its first ever championship title; along with the Conn Smythe after leading all skaters with 15 goals in the playoffs. It symbolized a weight that could finally be lifted off his shoulders; there would be no more questions at the start of the season as to if they could get over that second-round hump. No more comparisons to Sidney Crosby. With the monkey finally off his back, some wondered if he’d step off the gas in 2018-19.He shrugged that notion off.”When you taste [the Stanley Cup], you want it more and more,” Ovechkin said at the start of the year. “It’s something special… You just don’t want to stop it and you just want to continue to do it,” “You don’t want to do too much and say too much. You just have to go out there and work hard and have success.” Alex Ovechkin’s still got it.That was the main takeaway from the Washington Capitals captain’s 2018-19 campaign; where he hit the 50-goal mark and won the Rocket Richard Trophy, both for the the eighth time in his career. Beyond the regular season, he also impressed with a dominant first-round performance against Carolina. The veteran superstar netted five goals to go along with nine points before Washington fell in seven games. One thing is certain: “The Great 8″ has already established a legacy in the hockey community; one that his earned him respect from fellow players, coaches and front office staff from all over the NHL.”I’ve learned a lot from him. Just to watch him every day and watching him on the ice, it’s really impressive,” Connolly said. “This fan base is very lucky to watch what he does on a consistent basis.””You’re not going to see that, arguably, ever again.” What happened was that the 6-foot-3, 239-pound forward scored 51 goals in 81 games en route to the Capitals’ fourth-straight Metropolitan Division title. “That’s the best I’ve seen him play in my three years here. He just took some games over, it was impressive,” teammate Lars Eller said. “He was our best player. Him and [Nicklas Backstrom], but especially [Ovechkin], he just took it to another level. Physicality-wise, he enforced his will out there. And when he decides to do that, he’s almost unstoppable. That was exciting to see.”From bone-crushing hits to one-timers from “the office” (his prime scoring area from the top of the left circle), Ovechkin’s style has changed over time; from reckless to dominant and determined. All of that led to him raising Washington’s expectations, but emerging as arguably one of the best goal scorers to ever play the game.​”He’s just got a hungriness to him to contribute and to score goals,” Brett Connolly said. “I think he really led by example this year… You could tell that he was committed and that he was going to give everything he had to win again. He was great last year and arguably even better this year.”Still, he credits Washington’s overall success to the Capitals’ “great leadership group” rather than his stellar play.”Guys help me, I’ll help them,” Ovechkin said. “It’s not about one guy.”However, his accomplishments are unparalleled in today’s game; no other active player has as many goals as Ovechkin.MORE: Ovechkin becomes the highest-scoring Russian in NHL historyWhile his scoring is nothing new, it’s hard for his teammates not to take notice of his ability. That talent has helped him hit several milestones as he moves up the NHL’s all-time scoring list.”When you look at those numbers, you don’t even think, ‘599, 600, eh. . .,’ but then when you understand, you go, ‘Holy f— that’s a lot of goals,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said after watching Ovechkin score his 600th career goal in a 2018 game against the Jets.Ovechkin will continue his career with Washington for another two seasons before he becomes a UFA in 2021 when his 13-year contract that he signed in 2008 expires. Then will come the time for a decision: stay in Washington or heading somewhere else. By that time, the question as to whether or not he can keep up the pace with age might be answered, but it remains to be seen. Getty Images