With their win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night the Washington Capitals became the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth this season.
They are one of the top teams in the league — again — and have a great chance to win the Presidents’ Trophy for the second year in a row and the third time in the past seven years. Given how consistently good the Capitals have been over the past decade, this isn’t really anything new.
But there is a something a little different about this particular Capitals team right now, and you should notice it right away when you look at their goal scoring leaderboard where T.J. Oshie, and not Alex Ovechkin, currently paces the team.
Don’t believe it? Check it out.
And in 13 fewer games, too.
This is a huge surprise because you have to go all the way back to the 2003-04 season (the season before Ovechkin even entered the NHL) to find the last time somebody other than him finished as the Capitals’ leading goal scorer in a single season.
He’s not only been the Capitals’ top goal scorer every year of his career, he has been the league’s top goal scorer several teams. But as he starts to enter his 30s and slow down just a little, the gap between him and the rest of the league (including his teammates) has started to close a little.
Oshie took over the team lead in goals on Saturday night with his hat trick in the team’s 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and continued what has been a career year. That hat trick on Saturday also helped him top his previous career high in goals (which he set a year ago) and gives him a chance to top the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career, something he will almost certainly do barring another significant injury over the next month.
His 0.50 goals per game average (which comes out to a 41-goal pace over 82 games) is currently seventh best in the entire NHL.
He could not have possibly picked a better time to have a season like this as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He is almost certainly making himself a ton of money with this performance.
The only potential downside here is that Oshie is currently leading the league with a 24.3 percent shooting percentage that is not only significantly higher than anything he has ever done in his career (he is only a 13 percent shooter for his career, and before this season never finished higher than 14.1 percent) but it is a number that is almost certain to come crashing back down next season. Meaning, any team that signs him expecting this type of performance is probably going to be disappointed. For now, though, he is filling the net unlike ever before in his career and is one of the driving forces behind the Capitals’ latest run at the top spot in the NHL.