The Maurice Richard Trophy emblematic of the NHL's top goal scorer

As the NHL season heads into the final run in I find it very interesting that Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is poised to put himself in amongst some of the legends of the great game. Presently Ovechkin sits on top of the NHL's scoring race with 82 points. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin also has 82 points but because Ovechkin has more goals he gets the nod as the leader. Ovechkin has scored 48 goals in a total of 63 games played. That leaves him 19 games left to score 12 more goals. He will then reach a mark that will put him on a level with some of the elite players of all time, 60 goals in a season.

The last player in the league to achieve the 60 goal plateau was Pittsburgh's legend Mario Lemieux. Le Magnifique scored 69 goals in the 1995-96 season for the Penguins. Since then the closest player to 60 was Florida's Pavel Bure who netted 59 goals for the 2000-01 Panthers.

Starting in the 1980-81 season the league's top goal scorers regularly topped the 60 goal level. In 1980-81 the New York Islanders right wing Mike Bossy tallied 68 to lead the league. The string of 60+ goal scorers lasted until the strike shortened season of 1994-95. The list of players who led the league during that time is impressive. After Bossy came the dominance of the Edmonton Oilers. Wayne Gretzky led the league from 1981-82 through 1984-85 as he scored 92 (still the all time record), 71, 87 and 73 respectively. The 1986-87 season saw the goal scoring title shift to one of Gretzky's teammates Jari Kurri who tingled the twine a total of 68 times. The next season saw Gretzky return to the top as he scored 62 times. The next two seasons 1987-88 and 1988-89 saw Mario Lemiuex take the top spot as he totalled 70 and 85 goals. The St. Louis Blues Brett Hull then became the top goal scorer as he scored 72, 86, and 70 in each of the next three seasons. Some different players started to take the goal scoring lead starting in the 1992-93 season as Buffalo's Alexander Mogilny netted 76 and he was then followed by Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selanne who also tallied 76 goals. The 1993-94 season, the season before the strike, saw the ascendence of Pavel Bure who scored 60 goals while playing for the Vancouver Canucks.

Clearly Ovechkin can place himself in amongst the game's elite goal scorers if he can reach the 60 goal level. While I do hope that Malkin wins the scoring title, home town bias there, I do also hope that Ovechkin can reach 60 goals. The award that Ovechkin will win for the top goal scorer is the Maurice Richard Trophy given to the player who has scored the most goals in the regular season. The race to 60 goals has also caused Versus to place the Washington Capitals into their limelight as they will feature quite heavily during Ovechkin's quest.

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