Ovechkin, who turned 36 in September, has not only dominated his coach’s postgame speeches, but he has also captured the attention of the entire National Hockey League with an early outburst of goals and assists to demonstrate that the rugged and supremely talented left winger is still as good as he ever was, still the Great 8.

I’m getting closer to the Great One. The Washington Capitals have a locker room custom of honouring player achievements, which is spearheaded by coach Peter Laviolette. When someone makes a significant assist or scores their first career goal, Laviolette announces it to the team and frequently throws away the puck to honour the occasion.

He scored 22 goals entering the Christmas break, which began early due to the coronavirus, which caused the NHL to suspend play until next week.

Ovechkin is one goal behind league leader Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, and his 25 assists put him third in points behind Draisaitl and Oilers teammate Connor McDavid, who both have 49. He is just the sixth player in NHL history to have 17 straight 20-goal seasons, and he is on pace to score 58 goals this season, which would be the second-highest total in his remarkable 17-year career and the third-highest total for any player beyond the age of 30.

But there’s a bigger list on which he’s working his way up. On the career goals list this year, Ovechkin surpassed Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull. Ovechkin is only 15 goals away from passing Jaromir Jagr for third place with 752. Only Gordie Howe (801 points) and Wayne Gretzky (894 points) are ahead of him.

“It’s not even a question that he’ll pass me, and I think it’s fantastic,” Gretzky remarked over the phone last week. “He’s well on his way to hitting 40 or 50 goals this year, if not more.” There is no question that he will eventually smash the record.”

Gretzky and Ovechkin appear to be diametrically opposed. Gretzky was a thin vision on the ice, the greatest playmaker of all time with his blond locks flowing out of his Jofa helmet, the winner of four Stanley Cups and nine Hart medals as the most valuable player, all while piling up inconceivable point totals for clubs in five cities.

Ovechkin, with his shaggy, greying mane, gaptoothed smile, boisterous persona, and linebacker frame (he is every bit of his 6-3, 240 pounds), is a more direct force, whose bruising, power style, and sizzling slap shot helped him accumulate three Hart trophies and a Stanley Cup, all in one adoring city, and made him one of the game’s most feared opponents.

In that regard, Ovechkin and Gretzky are strikingly similar, each possessing an unrivalled competitive drive and awareness of what it takes to get a puck past a goalie. Five years ago, the two travelled to Nobu in Malibu with their spouses for a hockey summit organised by Sergey Kocharov, the Capitals’ vice president of communications, who had worked with Gretzky while they were both with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The odd pair keep in contact, and Gretzky, like many hockey fans, watches Capitals games because he admires Ovechkin. If Ovechkin goes a few games without scoring, Gretzky sends him encouraging emails, assuring him that goals will come, and sometimes in bunches.

But, like the home run record in baseball, the career goal record is one of the most beloved and instantly recognised milestones in sports. Gretzky’s record of 894 was originally thought to be unbreakable. Ovechkin, on the other hand, has the potential to break the 900 mark.

When asked about it, Ovechkin typically responds that “one never knows” what will happen the next day. But his obsessive need to score has driven him since he was a child. Ovechkin has 53 goals when he was 12 years old and playing for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian juvenile league.