When hockey finally returns in 2021, the Capitals will have their sights set on the Stanley Cup. Every team enters each season with questions that need to be answered. We are looking at the biggest questions facing the Capitals in 2021.
Today's question: Can Alex Ovechkin remain one of the top goal-scorers in the league?
In the 2019-20 season, at the age of 34, Ovechkin scored 48 goals to earn the 9th Rocket Richard Trophy of his career as the NHL's leading scorer. He did it in just 68 games.
Typically the offensive success of a 35-year-old player is not a critical question for a team's success, but Ovechkin is not a typical player. The team is very much dependent on his production. He is the heart and soul of the team and I believe his eventual decline will mark the end of the team's championship window. He is what is keeping those Stanley Cup hopes alive for Washington.
On the one hand, nature tells us Ovechkin is going to start to decline and he is going to do it soon. On the other hand, we have expected his decline for several years and he just keeps producing as much as ever. At some point, this has to give, but will it be this year?
Predicting when a player's decline may come is essentially an exercise in futility. Father Time will eventually come for Ovechkin, but there are a few factors that would seem to be working in Ovechkin's favor for the upcoming season.
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No one knows how the coronavirus is going to affect players and teams when they return to the ice. This year has been unlike any other so this is all just a logical guess, but I have to believe more time off and a shorter regular season will ultimately benefit a 35-year old player who plays as intensely as Ovechkin.
Ovechkin is a player who takes his training very seriously and he has also done a masterful job working with trainers to adjust his training with age. The results speak for themselves. Ovechkin is not a player who is going to come into training camp overweight and not prepared because of the unusual offseason. He is going to be ready to go.
One other factor is the power play. Washington was awful with the extra man last season, and Ovechkin scored only 13 power play goals, the fewest he has scored since 2011-12. If the power play improves, even slightly, you have to think Ovechkin is going to be able to add more power play goals to boost his totals this season.
Since Ovechkin is already defying age, I am not going to predict he is going to be in the running for a 10th Rocket Richard Trophy, but I also do not think we are going to see a precipitous drop in his overall goal production just yet. He will remain a lethal goal scorer even if he takes a slight step back.