Ranking the 8 Best Moments in Alex Ovechkin's Career

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2021

Ranking the 8 Best Moments in Alex Ovechkin's Career

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Alex Ovechkin arrived in the NHL as a generational talent, and he's lived up to every bit of that billing in 16 seasons.

    Throughout his incredible career, "Ovi" has become one of the most prolific scorers in NHL history. The future Hall of Famer has racked up individual accolades, set many records and guided the Washington Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018.

    As the NHL approaches the 2021-22 season, we're highlighting the eight best moments in No. 8's career.

    The choices are subjective but include an emphasis on iconic goals, major milestones and both individual and team successes.

8. Hot Stick Celebration After 50th Goal of 2008-09 Season

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    During the 2008-09 season, Ovechkin led the NHL with 56 goals. And on his 50th, he ignited some controversy.

    Ovechkin ripped a wrister past Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike McKenna, then dropped his stick and pretended it was too hot to handle. The celebration drew the ire of players, coaches and some members of the media, especially Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry.

    "It's in their building. They're being beat 5-1 and you score on a rookie goalie," the once-popular Cherry said. "I mean, how do you think McKenna feels about this?"

    In 2021, McKenna told CBC he was embarrassed and wanted to slash Ovechkin's stick "into the next zip code." But soon after, Ovechkin apologized and told McKenna he didn't mean to disrespect him.

    All's well that ends well.

7. The Glass-Breaking, Goal-Scoring Debut

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    Ovechkin wasted no time introducing himself to the NHL.

    During his first-ever shift, he hammered New York Rangers defender Radoslav Suchy into the boards. The massive hit broke a stanchion, which holds the glass surrounding the rink in place.

    "He didn't expect it," he later told Men in Blazers. "I was flying over there. I was young. ... When you have that strength in your body, I think you have to use it. Have to send a message."

    But that was merely the start.

    Midway through the third period, Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal in Washington's 3-2 victory. It was the first of 52 goals en route to the Calder Trophy as the league's Rookie of the Year.

6. Hart Trophy Clinches Historic Sweep

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Ovechkin bossed the 2007-08 season. As a result, his trophy case started to look a little crowded.

    Ovechkin scored a career-high 65 goals, which secured the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer. Throw in 47 assists for 112 points, and Ovi earned the Art Ross Trophy given annually to the league's top point producer.

    Additionally, he earned MVP honors as voted for by the players (Pearson Award) and media (Hart Trophy).

    Ovechkin had never landed any of those awards, so that alone was exciting enough. But he also became the first player to secure all four accolades in the same season.

5. Ovechkin Nets 1,000th Career Point

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    In January 2017, Ovechkin notched his 1,000th career point and joined a relatively exclusive club.

    Ovechkin's first-shift goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins made him the 84th player in NHL history to reach the mark. Notably, he achieved the milestone in the 24th-fastest time (880 games).

    From a personal lens, the moment was extra special for Ovechkin because his wife, parents and brother were in the crowd. "I kind of [thought] about it before the gameeverybody's here, and it will be nice to get [my] 1,000th point at home," he said.

    For good measure, Ovechkin added a power-play goal in the second period of Washington's 5-2 win.

4. Ovi Becomes All-Time Leading Russian Goal Scorer

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    Since the debut of Victor Nechayev during the 1982-83 season, Russian-born players have made a massive impact in the NHL. Prior to Ovi, legendary goal scorers included Slava Kozlov, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny, among several others.

    And in November 2015, Ovechkin ascended to No. 1.

    He cleaned up a pass from Nicklas Backstrom for the 484th goal of his career, which set an NHL record for Russian-born players. (Backstrom, coincidentally, assisted Fedorov when he passed Mogilny for the same achievement seven years earlier.)

    Though the Caps lost to the Dallas Stars on this particular night, Ovechkin added yet another distinction to his legacy.

3. Dueling Playoff Hat Tricks with Sidney Crosby

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    Because of the 2004-05 strike, Ovechkin entered the league in the same season as Penguins star Sidney Crosby. For understandable reasons, they've always been compared to one another. Together, they put on a show in the 2009 playoffs.

    Ovechkin and Crosby both notched a hat trick in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Most importantly for the Capitals, Ovechkin's last two tallies sealed a 4-3 victory.

    "It's good for the fans to see great players play against each other and two great teams play against each other," Ovechkin said at the time. "It's unbelievable when we play against great players and you win the game like this."

    Pittsburgh, though, would eliminate the Caps in seven games.

2. 'The Goal'

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    Whenever he ultimately hangs up the skates, the final milestone goal of Ovechkin's career will ascend in a ranking of memorable moments. Perhaps it'll even be a replay of him passing Wayne Gretzky as the NHL's all-time leading scorer.

    If he scores a singular tally greater than "The Goal" in his rookie season, however, we'll be completely shocked.

    And this highlight came in front of "The Great One."

    As the Capitals held a 5-1 advantage in this January 2006 game against the Gretzky-coached Phoenix Coyotes, Ovechkin rushed into the offensive zone with speed. Phoenix defenseman Paul Mara stood up the rookie and shoved him onto the ice, seemingly ending the threat.

    Somehow, though, Ovi contorted his body, twisted his arms andfrom his back, unable to see the netshuttled the puck beyond a sprawled Brian Boucher, the Phoenix goalie.

    If it's not the greatest goal in NHL history, it's very close.

1. Ovechkin Finally Lifts the Cup

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The first eight seasons (1974-75 to 1981-82) in franchise history were somewhere between disgusting and bad. Since, though, Washington has been a consistently competitive team.

    From 1982-83 to 2003-04, the Capitals made the postseason 18 times in 22 years. They missed the playoffs in Ovechkin's first two seasons, then won seven division titles and earned nine postseason berths during the next 10 years.

    But the franchise had never won it alland Ovechkin had never come close. The 1997-98 team lost in the Stanley Cup Final, and Washington hadn't even reached the Eastern Conference Final in those nine playoff trips with Ovechkin leading the roster.

    Finally, the drought ended in 2017-18.

    Ovechkin piled up 15 goals and 12 assists to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league's playoff MVP. Washington defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, Penguins, Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights on the way to the championship.

    "I just wanted to do whatever I can to help win the Cup," Ovechkin said afterward. "And we did it."

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