If you were watching ESPN the day before the season began, you may have caught a glimpse of Barry Melrose predicting Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals would score 60 goals this coming season.
Sixty goals, Barry? Really?
I guess the prediction makes sense. Ovi scored 65 goals during the 2007-08 season, and the only other player to get 60 goals since then was Stamkos, who scored exactly 60 during the 2011-12 season.
But is it really a viable prediction? I think its somewhat too optimistic. Nevertheless, I think Ovi will get at least 45 goals this season, and he might even score 50 or more.
In 2013, Ovi was the Great Eight once again. He collected 21 goals over the final 20 games of the regular season. Ovi claimed the Rocket Richard Trophy for a third time—the first player to do so—with 32 goals.
Ovi actually equalled the number of goals he scored during the entire 2010-2011 season, when he also scored 32—and he did it in 31 fewer games. Ovechkin's performance was enough to earn him a third Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL MVP.
Ovi would have been on pace to score 55 goals had the 2012-13 season been of the 82-game variety. That would have been his third-highest total ever. The question now is whether he can maintain that pace this season.
One thing in his favor is just how deadly Ovi is when the Caps are on the power play. There is no more dangerous player in the NHL when his team has a man advantage than Ovechkin.
Last season, half of Ovi's goals were scored on the power play. No one was really close to Ovechkin in this category. Stamkos was a somewhat distant second with 10 power-play goals.
What has to be frustrating for the opposition is that it knows what is coming. It is no secret that Ovi is going to float to the left faceoff circle and try and set up for a slap shot or for one of the best wrist shots in the game.
Everyone knows this—and no one can seem to stop it.
It is almost unfair at times. Ovechkin has one of the best shots in the NHL, whether it is a one-timer, a slap shot or a wrister. To give him a clear line of sight to the goalie—with all that skill at his disposal—well...good luck stopping that.
And more often than not, opponents can't stop him. We saw this again in the season opener against Chicago. What was even more frustrating was that the Hawks played it pretty well and actually got a stick on the feed from Mikhail Grabovski. It did not matter. Ovi still fired the deflected puck past Corey Crawford for his first goal of the season.
Ovi did not score a goal until the fifth game of the season in 2012-13. He had only two goals through the first 10 games of the season.
He already has a goal in his first game this season and is now comfortable in his role as a right winger under Adam Oates' system.
Look for Ovi to score at least 45 goals, and if can maintain his current pace, then perhaps Melrose's prediction might not be so far off after all.