Assisting Ovechkin: Closer look at setting up 800-plus goals

Only Wayne Gretzky has scored more goals than Alex Ovechkin in NHL history. Ovechkin at 810 is 85 away from breaking Gretzky’s record that had long seemed unapproachable.

Entering Monday, a total of 104 players have Assisted on at least one goal by Ovechkin. Only 40 have come unassisted. A closer look at those assists:

THE LEADERS

Longtime Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has Assisted on 276 of Ovechkin’s goals, directly setting up 136 of them.

“Ideal pass? It depends where he is,” Backstrom said. “Obviously, he’s been scoring a lot of goals from his office, but I think his favorite position is probably coming in from the blue line. That’s my favorite spot to give him the puck: a drop pass when he’s coming with speed.”

Defenseman John Carlson is next with 142 assists (92 primary), followed by center Evgeny Kuznetsov with 105 total (66 primary), defenseman Mike Green with 70 (48 primary), forward Marcus Johansson with 58 (31 primary) and Winger Alexander Semin with 45 (32 primaries).

Seven of the top nine, including Winger Tom Wilson and defenseman Dmitry Orlov, currently play with Ovechkin, who reached the 800-goal plateau and passed Gordie Howe for second on the career list in December.

“When he’s in a good position, you probably want to make the pass because most of the time he’s dangerous and it could be a goal,” Orlov said. “That’s why everybody finds him on the ice.”

THE GOALIES

Nine of Ovechkin’s goals have featured an assist by a goaltender: five by Olie Kolzig and one each by Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, Jose Theodore and Tomas Vokoun.

Kolzig (one goal against), Theodore (three goals against) and Vokoun (eight goals against) are also among the goalies 167 Ovechkin has scored on.

HOW IT STARTED

Ovechkin’s first goal, just over seven minutes into his NHL debut Oct. 5, 2005, was assisted by Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpern.

Zubrus, who assisted on 26 goals by Ovechkin, retired in 2016 after playing almost 1,400 games. Halpern was Washington’s Captain in 2005-06, a few years before Ovechkin got the “C,” and has since won the Stanley Cup twice as an Assistant Coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

HOW IT’S GOING

Before Halpern’s arrival in Tampa Bay, Ovechkin and the Capitals beat the Lightning in the 2018 Eastern Conference final on the way to winning the Cup for the first time in franchise history. Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during that title run, scoring a postseason-high 15 goals.

Ovechkin has 72 playoff goals, which don’t count towards his Chase of Gretzky’s record. Among his most recent milestones, he reached the 800 plateau by completing a hat trick at Chicago on Dec. 13 on a goal Assisted on by Anthony Mantha and Kuznetsov and reached 802 to pass Gordie Howe for second on the career list is an empty-netter Dec. 23 against Winnipeg off a pass from Kuznetsov.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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