Photo: Jeff Roberson (AP)

Somewhere along the way, Alex Ovechkin went from “holy shit, that guy can score” to “holy shit, that guy can still score” without even a hint of a drop-off in between. He’s 33 years old now, which is generally well past a forward’s prime, and it just doesn’t seem to matter. The only real difference is that every scoring milestone now puts him in the same sentence as bigger and bigger legends of the sport.

The Capitals got rolled in St. Louis on Thursday night, but Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season. This one was from the other circle, but he’ll take it.

Despite having gone scoreless in his last six games, Ovechkin is still the first player in the league to 30 this season. It only took him 39 games to do it—his fewest since his 65-goal 2007–08 season. This is the fifth time in his career he’s been the NHL’s first player to 30, and all five of those times have come in the last seven years. He is, if anything getting better with age.

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Thirty is a nice round number, and it’s not entirely arbitrary—if you’ve scored 30 goals, you’ve had a damn good season. (And if you’ve scored 30 before the season’s half-over, like Ovie now has? Well!) Thirty, and the various peripheral conditions, mean some pretty special company:

  • Ovechkin is only the third player in NHL history, after Bill Cook and Teemu Selanne, to be the first to reach 30 goals after turning 33 years old.
  • He’s only the second player in NHL history, after Phil Esposito, to be the first to reach 30 goals in two consecutive seasons after turning 30.
  • It’s Ovechkin’s 14th 30-goal season, joining a club populated only by Mike Gartner, Jaromir Jagr, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, and Marcel Dionne.
  • It’s his 14th consecutive 30-goal season, a feat accomplished only by Gartner and Jagr.
  • It’s his 14th consecutive 30-goal season to start his career. He trails only Gartner, and can match him next year.

“He’s just an elite, elite scorer that we’re so fortunate to have on our team and, jeez, the league is even fortunate just to have this type of a player that’s a generational talent,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “To score 30 again this year is quite an accomplishment after going through a long season last year, and he continues to get a year older but he still does the phenomenal things.”

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“Generational” might even be underselling it. There’s a strong argument that Alex Ovechkin is the greatest scorer of all time; he’s probably going to pass Wayne Gretzky in adjusted career goals by the all-star break. He’ll be sitting out that all-star game this year, by the way, even at the cost of a mandatory one-game suspension, because he wants the full week off. And can you blame him? He’s an old man.