We should really start to seriously savor these head-to-head meetings between Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin, because we don’t know how many more there will be left. Barring an injury to either player we’ll get at least two more – including the last day of the 2016-17 season – but with the 43-year-old Jagr, you just never know. He goes year by year when it comes to signing contracts and he seems pretty comfortable with that.
But we have to come to grips with the fact that someday, Jagr’s scoring touch will leave him permanently. Wayne Gretzky had nine goals in his final NHL season, which put him 38 behind league leader Teemu Selanne and tied for 226th in the NHL along with, among others, the likes of Bob Corkum, Mike Stapleton and Alexandre Daigle.
So the day is coming at some point. Let’s just hope it’s not too soon. Thursday night in the Panthers 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, Jagr and Ovechkin hooked up once again. And once again, Jagr scored. Also once again, Ovechkin stuck a stake in the Panthers’ heart with a goal of his own, which turned out to be the game-winner. Jagr’s goal was his first of the year and the 750th of his career, Ovechkin’s was just his second and the 527th of his career.
The goals were scored back-to-back, which is fitting since they were scored by the two best goal scorers in the history of the game. Yeah, I said it. Depending upon how productive he is and whether he plays beyond this season, Jagr could sit second on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. Ovechkin, on the other hand, would need at least eight more 50-goal seasons to think of unseating Gretzky for No. 1 of all-time.
But Jagr and Ovechkin are the best. First, the obvious. They’ve both piled up hundreds of goals in eras when scoring has been at near historic lows. If you adjust their totals to reflect the eras in which they played – something a website called www.hockeyreference.com does by putting all players on equal ground – it provides some perspective. According to that site’s adjusted goals, Gordie Howe would lead the all-time leader board with 925 goals, followed by Jagr at 842, a significant margin ahead of Gretzky’s 758. Ovechkin, according to his adjusted goals, would be at 642 and counting.
But even without the adjustments, Jagr is worth considering. In fact, if not for lockouts and the three years he spent in the KHL, Jagr would probably nipping at Gretzky’s heels for the all-time lead as we speak. Let’s start with the 1994-95 lockout that limited the NHL to 48 games. Jagr was in his prime then, scoring 32 goals, which prorates to 55 goals that season. Gretzky had 11 goals, which prorates to 19.
So that puts Jagr at 773 goals and Gretzky at 902. Now, let’s look at the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. It’s hard to put a goal total on Jagr, since he put up 31 the season before the lockout and 54 after the game was opened up to create more scoring. So let’s put him at 35 for that season. That now puts him at 808. Then we go to the three seasons he spent in the KHL and judging by his scoring pattern, he probably would have been good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 a year, but let’s give him a total of 70. That would put him at 878 goals, just 24 behind Gretzky for the all-time crown. If Jagr does play beyond this season, he’ll probably score at least that many in his sleep.
Now to Ovechkin. He’ll need a whole whack of otherworldly seasons to even think of penetrating the upper tier of scorers in the NHL. But does anyone believe he doesn’t have at least one more Rocket Richard Trophy in him? If he does manage to do that, it will give him seven and eclipse the only other man who led the league in goals six times during his career, Phil Esposito. Gretzky, Howe Rocket Richard and Charlie Conacher each did it five times.
So, you see, it’s certainly not a stretch to suggest that last night we got to see the top two goalscorers ever placed on Earth go head-to-head last night. How much longer it continues is anyone’s guess. That’s why Nov. 5 and April 9 of this season could end up being very special days.