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Alex Ovechkin hit the 700-goal milestone, and Gretzky’s record might be next – SB Nation

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Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 700th regular-season NHL goal on February 22 against the New Jersey Devils. In typical Great Eight style, he beat goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood with a slap shot from the faceoff circle, assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nick Jensen. The Capitals bench poured onto the ice to briefly celebrate with their captain before play resumed.

Ovechkin is only the eighth player in NHL history to reach the milestone. He now joins the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Jaromír Jágr as one of the most productive goal scorers in the history of professional hockey.

The last player to reach 700 goals was Jágr, who did so in 2014, the 20th season of his NHL career. Ovechkin is in his 15th season and reached the milestone in 1,144 games. This makes him the second-fastest player in NHL history to do so.

Ovechkin was drafted first overall by the Capitals in 2004 and has played with the team for the entire duration of his NHL career, during which he has earned one Stanley Cup, 11 NHL All-Star Game invitations, and eight Rocket Richard trophies. He’s also represented Team Russia throughout his career and has won the IIHF World Championship three times.

At age 34, Ovechkin is still going strong. Despite his team’s subpar defensive performance during the 2019-20 season, Ovechkin has had an immensely productive few months and is reasonably on track to hit 50 goals for the ninth time in his career.

The fastest player to to ever reach 700, of course, was the Great One. Gretzky reached the milestone in only 886 games, which is a feat likely never to be surpassed, if only for the ways the game has changed since the 1980s, when Gretzky scored the bulk of his goals.

But Gretzky’s scoring finesse slowed once he hit his 30s due to back injuries and aging, and his career ultimately ended at age 38 with him holding the league record of 894 goals. While Ovechkin has slowed down, the difference hasn’t been nearly as noticeable.

Note that Ovechkin’s age 34 total of 40 goals is accurate through Feb. 19, 2020; a little over halfway through the 19-20 season. All data from NHL.com.

While Gretzky had a prolific (and likely unmatchable) start to his NHL career, Ovechkin’s greatest strength — and his greatest shot at beating the all-time goal record — is his consistency over time. If he were to remain healthy and play through age 38, he would need 45 goals per each remaining season to do it.

But Ovechkin has expressed his doubts over his likelihood of breaking the record. In 2018 he told a reporter in Russia he thought it was impossible for anyone to ever surpass it.

Gretzky has different ideas. In early 2020, he told NHL.com that Ovechkin has “a legitimate chance” of breaking his all-time record. He attributed this to Ovechkin’s health and his strong team.

In fact, much of Ovechkin’s success comes from his consistent 15 seasons with the Washington Capitals and especially in his longterm partnership with center Nicklas Backstrom, who has assisted 260 of those goals, according to NBC. That’s 37 percent of Ovechkin’s total. Yes, that’s a wildly high number. It’s also not a particularly surprising one, considering Backstrom had more assists than any other player in the 2010s.

Now that Backstrom has re-signed with the Capitals through 2025, Ovechkin’s recipe for success should remain fairly constant for a few more years, which increases his opportunity of being perhaps the only player capable of surpassing Gretzky.

Even if Ovechkin doesn’t come close to breaking the record, he’s still a once-in-a-generation kind of goal scorer due to his longevity and consistency. He’s the only player ever, after all, to lead the league in goals for eight seasons.

It’s unlikely another player will reach the 700-goal milestone any time soon. The next closest active player is San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, who, at age 40, would still have to score nearly 150 additional goals in his career to cross the threshold. It’s safe to say that it will be a long time before any player gets close to matching Ovechkin’s offensive mastery.

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Montreal Canadiens place Alex Belzile on waivers, plus other injury updates – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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The Montreal Canadiens have placed forward Alex Belzile on waivers on Monday.

The forward will be assigned to the Laval Rocket should he clear waivers. The 31-year-old was pointless in 11 games this season with the Canadiens. He has four goals and seven assists in 16 AHL games this season.

The team also provided several injury updates, as the new Vice President of Communications Chantal Machabée briefed the media before head coach Dominique Ducharme answered questions.

Joel Edmundson is back from Montreal after being in Manitoba and away from the team. There is no timeline on his return, and the same goes with Carey Price.

Jake Allen will undergo an MRI, while Paul Byron and Tyler Toffoli are nearing a return.

Cayden Primeau will start against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday afternoon. Laurent Dauphin and Josh Anderson also draw back in the lineup. Michael Pezzetta will be a healthy scratch.

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Updates regarding the Canadiens' roster – NHL.com

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GLENDALE – The Canadiens announced the following roster moves on Monday morning.

SHOP: Caufield Blue Socks

Forwards Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylonen were assigned to the Laval Rocket.

Meanwhile, defenseman Gianni Fairbrother has joined the Rocket and returned to training, having completed his period of isolation required by the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

The Canadiens will face the Coyotes in Arizona on Monday, January 17.

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Novak Djokovic could be barred from French Open if unvaccinated – CBC.ca

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Novak Djokovic returned home Monday after being thwarted from defending his Australian Open title only to face a new predicament: He could be barred from the French Open this year, too, if he’s still not vaccinated against COVID-19.

A plane carrying the No. 1-ranked player touched down in his native Serbia, closing at least the first chapter in a dizzying drama that has resonance in the world of elite sports, Australia’s pandemic politics and the polarized debate over the coronavirus shots.

A handful of fans waving the Serbian flag greeted him at Belgrade’s airport. Djokovic has an almost iconic status in Serbia, and many there felt he was poorly treated by Australia.

But his troubles may not be over yet: He could be barred from the French Open this year, under a new law intended to exclude the unvaccinated from stadiums and other public places. Much could change between now and the start of the Grand Slam tournament in late May, but that raised the spectre the recent saga in Australia would be not just a blip but an ongoing challenge for the athlete, who is increasingly being held up as a hero by the anti-vaccine movement.

A member of the French Parliament, Christophe Castaner, said the new law will apply to anyone who wants to play in the French Open — a reversal of earlier plans to create a “bubble” around the tournament.

“To do your job, to come for pleasure or leisure, to practice a sport, it will be necessary to present a vaccine. This will be valid for people who live in France but also for foreigners who come to our country for vacation or for a major sports competition,” Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu told BFM television on Monday.

But some details of the law are still being hashed out, including how it will deal with people who have recently recovered from COVID-19, as Djokovic has. The question is how recent the infection must be to qualify for an exemption to vaccination rules. France’s sports ministry said Monday once the law is in place, there will be no exceptions until further notice.

WATCH | Djokovic deported from Australia after losing final appeal:

Novak Djokovic deported from Australia after losing final appeal

18 hours ago

Duration 2:01

Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after losing his final appeal to not have his visa revoked, meaning he could not compete in the Australian Open. Djokovic’s lack of COVID-19 vaccination has galvanized tennis fans, Australians and become a rallying cry for anti-vaxxers. 2:01

Djokovic is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.

It’s also not clear when Djokovic could head back to Australia. Deportation can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that can be waived, depending on the circumstances.

For now, a warm welcome awaits Djokovic, who has overwhelming support in his native Serbia where his closest family lives. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star and urged him to return home.

Novak Djokovic plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday. A court upheld a decision by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Denied entry to Australia

“God bless you Novak,” read one of the banners held by the fans at the airport as he was whisked through the passport control and customs and then driven by his brother Djordje to his apartment in Belgrade.

The official Tanjug news agency reported that Djokovic’s mother, Dijana, said her son will remain in Belgrade in the coming days and won’t make statements for the media.

WATCH | Djokovic says his agent made error on Australia entry form:

Novak Djokovic blames human error for inaccurate travel declaration

5 days ago

Duration 1:52

Novak Djokovic says human error is to blame for an inaccurate travel declaration form that claimed the tennis champion hadn’t travelled for two weeks before arriving in Australia for an upcoming tournament in Melbourne. 1:52

Djokovic’s Australian saga began when he was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules by two medical panels and the tournament organizer in order to play in the Australian Open because he had recently recovered from COVID-19. He received a visa to enter the country through an automated process. But upon arrival, border officials said the exemption was not valid and moved to deport him.

The initial news that the star had been granted the exemption sparked anger in Australia, where strict lockdowns in cities and curbs on international travel have been employed to try to control the spread of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

More than 95 per cent of all top 100 men and women tennis players in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two other men – American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the Australian Open due to vaccine requirements.

In the end, Australian authorities revoked Djokovic’s visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment and kicking him out was necessary to keep Australians safe. He was deported Sunday, a day before the tournament got underway in Melbourne.

Djokovic has won nine titles there previously. He had hoped this year to secure his 21st Grand Slam singles trophy, breaking the record he shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, but Nadal is competing.

WATCH | Canadians to watch at Australian Open:

Canadians to watch at the 2022 Australian Open

3 days ago

Duration 3:17

CBC Sports’ Vivek Jacob walks through the Canadian tennis stars you should be watching as they gear up to compete in the 2022 Australian Open 3:17

As the legal battle played out in Australia, Djokovic acknowledged he had attended an interview in Belgrade in December with journalists from L’Equipe newspaper after testing positive for the coronavirus. He later described this “an error” of judgment.

Asked if Djokovic would face any penalties for flouting his isolation while being infected when he returns to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country is not in a state of emergency.

Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia “a farce with a lot of lies.”

“Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here,” said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident. “They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride.”

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