Rick Nash’s incredible resurgence and Alex Ovechkin’s amazing consistency could produce one of the tightest Rocket Richard Trophy races we’ve seen in a long time.
It’s been five years since we’ve seen a scoring race this exciting.
Flash back to 2009-10, when the ‘Greatest Player in the World’ debate was in full swing and Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin were neck-and-neck-and-neck in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
The whole contest came down to the last game of the season on Apr. 11, when Crosby scored two goals, Stamkos tallied one and Ovechkin failed to score. Ovechkin had the lead going into the day, but couldn’t keep up as Crosby and Stamkos passed him.
Crosby and Stamkos ended up splitting the hardware with 51-goal seasons, while Ovechkin fell one goal short in 10 fewer games played.
Not since then have the goal scoring leader and the runner-up been one goal apart at the end of the season.
Now look at the leader board this year. Alex Ovechkin is again on top of the list, but good lord, Rick Nash is only one point back of the ‘Great Eight,’ and he’s keeping up to the pace.
Nash has 35 goals so far with 28 games left to play, while Ovechkin has the lead with 36 goals and only 25 games to play. We’re almost into the home stretch (i.e. post-trade deadline), and no one is emerging as the clear leader.
Nash had the lead on Saturday, but Ovechkin potted two on Ducks rookie John Gibson Sunday in the Caps’ 5-3 win in Anaheim. Both Ovie goals were wicked fast shots, one off the faceoff and the other on a one-timer. The guy’s got such a quick release that even after 10 seasons, defenders and goalies still can’t guard themselves against it.
Here’s the blink-and-you’ll-miss it first goal, snapped on net from the edge of the circle.
And here’s the second, a more common left wing blast from Ovechkin on the power play.
Ovechkin’s won four Rocket Richard Trophies and he’s been in the mix for the scoring title nearly every single year since the lockout. He’s the man to beat, and the goal scoring race is always more interesting when it’s Ovechkin vs. all takers. If nothing else, a tight Rocket Richard race gives us something to follow right up to the end of the season.
Speaking of which, the final weekend of the season is usually a mixed bag. The NHL likes to schedule a full set of games on the final day, but those games often mean very little to the teams involved. Aside from two or three teams fighting for a last-second playoff berth and a few others jostling for positions, the last game of the season is usually a formality before the real fun starts in the playoffs.
But if Nash and Ovechkin keep this pace up, they could make the last day of the season a thrilling Rocket Richard Trophy watch.
Because guess what happens at 3 p.m. ET on Apr. 11, 2015?
Rangers versus Capitals.
Nash versus Ovechkin.
And the Rocket Richard Trophy could be on the line.