By Mike Olson
The start of the 2015 NHL season is off to a fast start. Many teams are off to their best starts in franchise history, teams that many experts picked to do well are finding themselves struggling to win games, and on November 20th, 2015 there was a pretty significant record broken. The Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring player born in Russia.
This was a very tough article to write with my passion for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and trust me when he’s playing the Penguins I HATE him, but sometimes you have to set aside the passion you have for a team and give credit where credit is due.
Before I go into the record that Ovechkin broke, I want to give you a background story on him and how I feel about him. He was drafted in 2004, the same draft that saw another Russian player in Evgeni Malkin go 2nd overall to Pittsburgh. This is exactly what the league needed back then for marketing purposes. Rumors quickly went around saying that the two players had a feud because they shared the same agent, and of course both players denied the rumor. Ovechkin was compared to Mario Lemiuex and didn’t let down the experts as he went on to win rookie of the year in the ‘05-06 season. In ’07-08 he also became the first player to win the Rocket Richard trophy (top NHL scorer) Art Ross trophy (league leader in scoring points) Lester B Pearson Award (outstanding player in the NHL, now known as the Ted Lindsay award) and the Hart trophy (player judged most valuable to his team). In 2008 he signed an extension to his contract with the Capitals that was for 13 years and 124 million dollars, the richest in NHL history. There is no doubt Ovechkin is a good player he literally does everything. He can score, play good defense, block shots, is one of the more physical players, and isn’t intimidated by anyone. He is one of those players that you hate because he’s not on your team but would love him if he were. He is also known for playing some of his better games against the Penguins which is why a Penguins fan like me doesn’t like him.
Alex Ovechkin’s 484th goal surpassed Sergei Federov’s record who also donned a Capitals jersey when he set the record at 475. So why is this a big deal? This record in my opinion, and the opinion of many other hockey analysts, makes Ovechkin the best player to ever lace up the skates from Russia. Russia is full of a lot of talented hockey players, but none as decorated as he is. Add in that he is also the 4th highest scoring Russian with 900 points and Ovechkin is arguably the most well rounded Russian born hockey player. Of course there isn’t enough time to go over all the achievements he has made, although I often compare him to the NBA’s Allen Iverson, because Iverson always won awards and scoring trophies but never a championship. He has won 11 medals representing his homeland, owns many NHL and Washington Capitals records, and has won pretty much everything but Lord Stanley. It seems like every time the Caps are looking like they will make a deep run into the playoffs they sputter out of control and get eliminated. Many have speculated the Ovechkin had problems with coaches of the past that have led to changes being made. However, early in the season things are looking good in 2015 for the team finding themselves in second place in the metropolitan division.
Will the 2015-2016 season be the first time Ovechkin can hoist the hardest trophy to earn in sports? Will the team be able to overcome past failures in the playoffs? Right now there is very little doubt that if he does, he certainly is the greatest Russian to ever skate the ice in the NHL.