Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Since entering the league at age 20, Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin has never scored fewer than 30 goals in a single season.
It doesn't look like 2013 will be the year he finally finds out what that feels like.
With five games to go in the regular season, Ovechkin finds himself in a familiar position. He's leading the NHL with 28 goals on 198 shots.
Since the turn of the millennium, nobody has scored more goals in a single season than the 65 Ovechkin registered in 2007-08. He's a five-time All-Star, a two-time MVP and if he finishes the job in 2013, it will be the third time he's led the league in scoring.
Did we mention he's also engaged to a superstar tennis player?
Ovechkin is a rock-star on ice skates, the coolest thing in the nation's capital this side of RG3.
The fact that Ovechkin is in the discussion for league MVP should be the least shocking development in the history of sports.
Yet, for some reason, it seems like most of us are mildly surprised by it.
Upon closer examination, it's easy to see why we had our doubts about Ovechkin heading into the season.
As dominant as Ovechkin appeared in the mid-2000s, it's hard not to notice his sharp statistical decline over the past five seasons. Take a look:
2007-08: 65 G, 47 A, 112 PTS, +28
2008-09: 56 G, 54 A, 110 PTS, +8
2009-10: 50 G, 59 A, 109 PTS, +45
2010-11: 32 G, 53 A, 85 PTS, +24
2011-12: 38 G, 27 A, 65 PTS, -8
Last season's 20-point drop-off was especially troubling for fantasy owners. Prior to the 2011-12 campaign, Ovechkin had never finished worse than 13th in total points. No one could have envisioned Ovechkin falling all the way to 37th at an age when he was supposed to be entering his prime.
After spending half a decade at the top of the fantasy rankings, most outlets lowered their expectations for Ovechkin heading into the 2013 season. NHL.com had him at No. 9, while ESPN slotted him at No. 6 in their rankings. TSN in Canada was a bit more optimistic, sliding Ovechkin in at No. 4.
Our own site was probably the most generous when it came to evaluating Ovechkin's fantasy prospects. We predicted 30 goals and 26 assists for Ovechkin this season and ranked him second overall behind Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.
Looks like we were the only ones who got right. If Ovechkin continues to produce the way he has all season over his next five games, our projections are going to be spot on:
Ovechkin's current pace: 31.3 G, 22.3 A, 53.6 PTS, +2.2, 221 SOG
We must have ESP. Or we're just really lucky.
As recently as a month ago, none of these numbers seemed even remotely possible for Ovechkin. In his first 27 games of the year, Ovechkin tallied 10 goals and 12 assists, to complement a thoroughly unimpressive plus/minus rating (-7).
That's what Ovechkin's stat line looked like as of March 16th. Since that date, the toothless scoring prince has scored goals in 13 out of 16 games, racking up a +9 rating in the process.
Most of the damage has been done in the month of April. Since the start of the month, Ovechkin has gone off for 10 goals, four assists and a league-high 42 shots on net.
Over that stretch, no other player in the league has scored more than six goals and only a handful have been more accurate (23.4 percent shooting percentage). Overall, Ovechkin has been involved in 14 of the 31 goals Washington has netted during its eight-game winning streak.
This is vintage Ovechkin we're talking about here. Nobody in hockey is within 20 of his league-leading shot total (198). That would compute to 377.6 shots over a full season.
Remember, this season was shortened to 48 games because of the lockout. If the players and owners had come to a deal a bit sooner, Ovechkin could be looking at his fifth 50 goal season. He'd be on pace for 53.4, if this were a typical 82-game season.
Even more astounding has been Ovechkin's dominance on the power play. He's already scored more power play goals in 43 games (15) than he did all of last season (78 games). Nobody else in the league has even reached double-digits when it comes to scoring goals with the man advantage.
Don't expect Ovechkin to let his foot off the gas just yet. As well as the Caps have played lately, they're still just four points ahead of Winnipeg in the Southeast Division.
That means an extremely motivated Ovechkin will be on the ice Thursday against the Senators.
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