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Capitals' Alex Ovechkin pots 20th goal, continues to score at record pace

By Michael Blinn

Alex Ovechkin is one of the NHL's elite goal scorers, but this season he's taking things to another level, one just a handful of players have been to before him.

On Saturday night, the Russian winger potted his 20th goal in the Capitals' 22nd game of the season, increasing his League-leading total in a 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

At his current clip of 0.91 goals per game, Ovechkin is on pace for over 74 on the season - the highest since countryman Alexander Mogilny scored 76 with Buffalo in 1992-93. The total would shatter Ovi's personal best of 65, set in 2007-08, and displace Wayne Gretzky's 1984-85 season as the eight-best ever. Some have suggested that he could be the first players to hit the vaunted 50-goals-in-50-games mark since Brett Hull did it in back-to-back seasons in 1990-91 and 1991-92.

The Capitals are currently sixth in the league with 71 goals on the season, giving Ovechkin an incredible 28.1% of the team's total, just a shade under Pavel Bure's all time mark of 29.5%, set with the Panthers in 2000-01. Also a prolific shot-taker, the six-time All-Star has a League-high 123 on the season, an average of 5.59 per game, which would give him over 458 in an 82-game season, third-highest of all time, and would give him three of the top four all-time single-season shot totals, and four of the top ten. As well, his shooting percentage of 16.3  in 2012-13 is a career-high pace.

This shouldn't be a big deal for a guy who scored 272 goals and 529 points in his first five NHL seasons, but his performance stands as a rise back to prominence for a player that suffered under a revolving door of coaches and questions about his game beyond electrifying offense. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, his scoring totals dipped to 70 goals and 150 points - numbers that the majority of NHL players aspire to, but for the former No. 1 overall pick and two-time Richard Trophy winner as the top goal scorer, it marked a severe downturn.

Fortunately, the Capitals' hire of Adam Oates, the NHL's no. 17 all-time scorer, has been a boon to Ovechkin. To wit:since taking over before a lockout-shortened season, he's guided the right winger back to scoring at a clip more in line with those five seasons than the two more recent, including a 23-game tear down the stretch that saw him pot 23 goals and lead Washington up the standings to the Southeast Division title and a playoff spot.

This season, the Ovi-led squad is second in the Metropolitan Division with a 12-10-2 record, four points behind Pittsburgh for the top spot. While the goaltending tandem of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth have struggled to turn raw talent into consistency, the offense has its focal point back - and that's a good thing for the Capitals, the NHL, and with the Sochi Olympics fast approaching, host country Russia.

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