In his short NHL career, Alex Ovechkin has become one of the most well-liked ice hockey players in the world. Granted, there have been ups and downs, but ultimately Ovechkin has managed to establish himself as not only one of the best active players in the world, but also in the upper echelon of players to ever play the game.
Like him or not, he is a great player with a brilliant past and a bright future, and though he has many years of NHL play ahead of him, the player affectionately nicknamed "Ovi" by his closest fans has already accomplished a lot in his short career. This is a power ranking of the top 15 moments, off and on the ice, we have seen from the Great Eight Alex Ovechkin since he broke into the league on that legendary Wednesday back in 2005.
When looking over the Great Eight's best matches, people often overlook a 2006-07 regular season game against the Atlanta Thrashers. There is no reason why they shouldn't. It was just your average Friday night at the Philips Arena, and it was just one of many Alex Ovechkin hat tricks. That said, it was an important landmark in the Russian's career, and it deserved to be recognized as one.
The Capitals won the game 3-2 in overtime. Ovechkin opened the scoring with a power play goal halfway through the first period, but the Capitals would still find themselves trailing by a goal with five minutes remaining in the third. This is when "Ovi" took over. He tied the game with a second PPG with just 31 seconds remaining, then picked up the puck off the overtime's opening faceoff, turned up ice, and scored unassisted to end it after only six seconds.
Significant? Yes. This game was the first time we saw Ovechkin show an ability to lead his team. They were not good that night. He picked them up on his broad shoulders and carried them to victory. This was the first time we saw Ovechkin as a candidate to be a future captain in the district.
Call it an initiation. Call it a piece of foolish horseplay. Whatever you decide to call it, you have to admit that Alex Ovechkin's "I Swear God" Hole-in-One was the definitive moment when you truly, truly loved him for the first time.
It is no secret Ovechkin's infectious personality rubs off on those around. He smiles, and you smile. He is a funny guy who loves to have a good time. No time has he better illustrated those traits than when he potted a whole in one on his first ever golf hole just days before the opening game of his sophomore season. Watch it. I challenge you not to laugh.
A broken nose. Four goals. One Assist.
That is the summary for Alex Ovechkin's January 31st performance against the Montreal Canadiens.
To put it lightly, Ovechkin was roughed up early on against the Habs. They came at him, doing their best to injure him, to knock him out of the game, but he just kept bouncing up. In a 5-4 overtime victory, Ovechkin totaled four goals to go along with an assist, despite playing the majority of the game with what would turn out to be a badly broken nose after a bad Francis Bouillon hit (would likely have been suspended in today's NHL). You would have a hard time finding a modern day NHL player who showed the resilience Ovi did that night. A true warrior.
Perhaps at no point in his career has Alex Ovechkin connected with fans as much as when he picked up a cowboy hat, a pair of plastic sunglasses and Evgeni Malkin's stick and proceeded down the ice to score a rebound goal at the 2009 All-Star Game Super Skills competition (the Gatorade squirt was the cherry on top). It is rare to see a professional athlete have such charisma and have so much fun with the fans. Such boyish enthusiasm is what we have come to expect from the Capitals captain. The goal was Ovechkin personified.
He deservedly won the Breakaway Challenge for his effort.
When the Capitals made their long-awaited return to the playoffs at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, much of the talk surrounding the team was how long it would take their star player to score his first playoff goal. It would take him about 55 minutes and 28 seconds.
It was a nice goal for a maiden playoff goal too. Out of nowhere, he stole the puck from the faultless Lasse Kukkonen, out-waited the goalie, then rifled it to the top shelf. With the goal, he tore himself onto the playoff scene, announcing himself to the world as a clutch player. The fact that it was the game winning goal didn't hurt, too.
In all likelihood, it will be a long time until we see another pair of consecutive drafts yielding No. 1 picks so obviously head-and-shoulders above the rest of their respective classes. Such was the case with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
Their world famous rivalry started right away. They both raced off in their rookie seasons—Ovechkin a flamboyant goalscoring phenom, Crosby a withdrawn playmaking genius. Their skill sets offset each other perfectly in a one-on-one battle that was incredible to follow.
This must have been an immense personal highlight for the Great Eight. Yes, he has repeatedly said that money has no importance to him, but when you put pen to paper on a contract that will see you be paid an average of $9.5 million a season, things change.
Suddenly, Ovechkin went from being just a kid playing the sport he loved to being a multi-millionaire. Suddenly, the Caps went from being a team with just a really good kid playing the sport he loved to being a team making a long term commitment to a player they believed was the best in the world.
A lot of things changed when the two parties agreed this deal. Things changed for the better.
Just one of the many legitimate highlight-reel goals Alex Ovechkin has treated us to throughout his career, his marker against the Montreal Canadiens in February 2009 perhaps exemplifies the dynamic Russian more than any other goal in his career.
At no other point in his career has he put together all the abilities that shine the brightest in his arsenal in such a unique way. First, there was the work ethic, coming from the opposite end of the ice to beat (current Cap) Roman Hamrlik to the puck. Second, the creativity and the skill, to turn Hamrlik inside out with a dazzling move with his back to the boards. Then, the speed, the strength and the power, lowering the shoulder on Kyle Chipchura and blasting past him towards the net. Then that incredible ability to finish from seemingly anywhere, including the seat of his pants. Finally, the typically Ovechkin-esque celebration, kissing his finger and raising it to the ceiling, all the while displaying his unrivaled love for the game and his bring-the-fans-out-of-their-seats ability.
It was absolutely incredible.
Heading into the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, there was one man who was going to go first overall. Nobody had any doubt. He was just that much better than everybody else. That man was Alex Ovechkin.
While you could argue that this is not officially a part of his NHL career, this was where it all started. The Capitals won the race for bottom spot in the league, and the reward for their hard work was the man who would lead their franchise for the next decade and a half.
Ovechkin walking up to the podium to meet his new boss was a vision of the fortunes of the Capitals organisation shifting. They went from a team going nowhere to a team very much with a future, and a bright one at that.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Lester B. Pearson Award
Rocket Richard Tophy
Art Ross Trophy
Do I really have to say more? Ovechkin, who shattered all kinds of records with his scintillating 65 goal, 112 point season, brought home four major distinctions at the annual NHL awards show. His haul was completely deserved. It will be a long time before a player puts up such a dominant season again.
The season immediately after Ovechkin was drafted was cancelled because of the lockout. He missed nothing when he decided to go home to play one final season with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian SuperLeague.
That said, when he did arrive in DC, he arrived with a bang. After 7.21 of the second period in the opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ovechkin scored the Caps' first goal since Brian Willsie tallied against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the fourth of April, 2004 (Matt Bradley scored for the Penguins in that game). Ovechkin cycled into the high slot, where he was inexplicably left wide open by the Blue Jackets defense. Line-mate Dainius Zubrus found him, and Ovi ripped his one-time slapshot over the blocker of Pascal Leclaire. Jeff Halpern had the other assist.
Ovechkin would score another goal in that game, a 4-2 victory.
Denis Savard, Dale Hawerchuk, Sidney Crosby, Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy, Peter Stastny, Bryan Trottier, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin. That is the list of players who reached 500 NHL points in five NHL seasons. Talk about elite company.
It seemed fitting that Ovechkin reached the milestone on another outrageous goal. I won't even try to describe what happened on this goal because I don't think anyone knows. All we know is that the goal put the Great Eight into the upper echelon of NHL players, as is illustrated by the above list.
As of the morning of October 19, 2011, Ovechkin sits on 614 career points.
Steve Yzerman, Lanny McDonald, Phil Esposito, Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy, Brett Hull, Bernie Nicholls, Teemu Selanne, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin. That is the exclusive list of players that have scored 65 or more goals in a single NHL season. Again, very impressive company for Ovechkin.
With the totals, Ovechkin became the highest scoring left-winger of all time. He also established himself as one of the premier goalscorers in NHL history. Simply put, Ovechkin may have booked his ticket to the NHL Hall of Fame already at the tender age of 22.
The December 28th, 2009 deal that saw Chris Clark shipped out of the district along with Milan Jurcina for speedy winger Jason Chimera left a major hole in the Capitals team. They now had no leader.
There was never any question as to whom was going to be named the team's new captain. He led them into battle every night with pride and dignity, and walked them out with his head held high no matter what the result. He had always done that. It was Alex Ovechkin. He would be voted forward by his teammates.
"Our team has adopted Alex's personality, and the energy, passion and drive to win that are his hallmarks have become our team's as well. He sets the tone, on the ice as well as off. He's respectful to everyone and a great ambassador for our team and our sport. We look forward to him leading the Washington Capitals for a long time," said General Manager George McPhee.
The sight of Ovechkin charging down the ice had become a regular sight. Fast and powerful, he would swagger down the ice like he owned it. Nobody could have guessed what was about to happen when he came rushing down the ice surface towards Phoenix Coyotes defenseman, Paul Mara.
No goal has ever been scored in the NHL that comes even close to what Ovechkin accomplished. No goal will ever come close. Many will put it down to luck, and that may be true, but what he managed to do had more to it than luck. He falls, knocked down by Mara, and with his hands above and behind his head, one hand on his stick, he manages to scoop the puck into an empty net from a near impossible angle. Watch it again. And again. And again. You could watch it forever.
As Joe Beninati said, it really was "simply sensational."
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95