Alex Ovechkin was awarded his third Hart trophy on Saturday night, a feat accomplished by only eight other NHL legends: Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, Eddie Shore, and Howie Morenz. Fine company for Ovi, a point not lost on our friends in Canada.
Speaking to The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera on Saturday night, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates heaped a truckload of praise on the Capitals captain for his willingness to change positions, especially after playing on the left side his entire career in the NHL and Russia.
Photo by Margaret McGuire
Tonight, Alex Ovechkin was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. It’s the third time in his career he’s won the award.
It’s a big freaking deal, especially if we consider the context of the local sports landscape. According to CSN’s Ben Raby, no DC-based athlete of any of the major four sports has ever won the MVP more than twice (the Senators’ Walter Johnson did so in 1913 and 1924). As much as Redskins fans love RGIII, this may even be a feat even he cannot accomplish.
Ovi, of course, looked relaxed when making his acceptance speech. With Paris in the background, Ovi thanked everyone from the coaches to the trainers and also credited his move to right wing as the catalyst that led to his huge year. The video seems to have been recorded when he was in Paris with fiancée Maria Kirilenko for the French Open, with cheering heard in the background and some lovely architecture behind him.
During the fall, the NHL lockout was excruciating for fans. It wiped out 34 games and made both the NHL and NHLPA look petty, as both sides were unwilling to make actual compromise until a drop dead date for the entire season was announced in January. The sport rebounded well when it started up again. Attendance surged in the 48-game shortened season and the NHL is currently enjoying its greatest ratings ever in a Stanley Cup Final since 1997.
But the NHL awards so far have been a disaster. Because of the compressed schedule, the league was forced to cancel its postseason award show in Las Vegas. Instead, the NHL is announcing its winners on TV and letting the players know days beforehand so that they could either fly out to Chicago or do video acceptance speeches. On Friday, the first batch of award winners were announced on the NHL Network during rush-hour traffic. Tonight, the second batch of awards, which includes the Calder, Hart, Norris, Lindsay, and Vezina, will be announced at 7pm on NBC an hour before game two of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin is up for both the Hart and Lindsay awards.
Naturally, because of the advanced notice, there have been leaks. Several days ago, it was reported PK Subban won the Norris. Bob McKenzie is reporting that Jonathan Huberdeau has won the Calder. And now TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting that Ovechkin has won the Hart trophy as the NHL’s MVP.
In a surprise to absolutely no one, unless you were to time-travel back to February– in case it would be a surprise to everyone, Alex Ovechkin has been named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded each year to the player deemed most valuable to his team by a bunch of snooty professional hockey writers with their cocky strides and musky odors.
Ovechkin scored a league-high 32 goals in 2013 and added another 24 assists. His shot total (4.6 shots a game) was a bounce back from recent years. Plus he got to grow facial hair again.
The two other finalists are NYI’s John Tavares and Sidney Crosby.
The Hart Trophy winner will be announced in Las Vegas this summer.
Photo credit: Paul Chiasson
Over the next five days, the Capitals will finish the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with three home games. The Caps’ match-ups with Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Boston will not only determine if Washington wins the Southeast Division and makes the playoffs, they’ll also sort out the trophy races that Alex Ovechkin is involved in. Ovechkin, after not winning any hardware since 2010, is in contention for four awards: the Ted Lindsey trophy for players’ MVP, the Art Ross trophy (for most points), the Maurice Richard trophy (for most goals), and the Hart trophy (for most valuable player).
While The Great Eight and his peers control his destiny with three of these four awards, the esteemed members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association will decide the Hart Trophy. This is the same media that in the last three years has literally flogged Ovechkin with a spiked 2 x 4 painted with a red maple leaf and dripping with Tim Horton’s coffee. Because when every great player gets older and his team becomes less aggressive, it’s the media’s moral obligation to antagonize him to casual fans and excoriate him at every turn.
I mean, look at some of this stuff.
Photo credit: Andre Ringuette
Earlier I wrote about how the Hart Trophy was a poorly defined award of limited value. Now I’ll share why I think Alex Ovechkin absolutely must have it. I’m going to share some stats and rebut some excuses, but the whole thing boils down to this: the Capitals needed the best from Ovechkin, and he delivered it.
But first, I’m going to repeat what we talked about before. This is the most valuable player to his team, not just the best all-around player. If we’re talking best player? I’d say it’s Sidney Crosby. Hands down. But most valuable? And to his team? That’s a more interesting conversation. And now, baby, you’ve got a stew going.
Photo credit: Francois Lacasse
Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, and Alex Ovechkin. Those are the names most seen in the deluge of chatter about this season’s Hart Trophy, the award given each year to the player deemed most valuable to his team. Washington’s own goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin seems to be the underdog in those conversations for a variety of reasons, namely that he plays in a bad division and wasn’t exceptional until the middle of March. I think those reasons are suspect, but the Hart conversation is already marred by a whole lot of questionable conventional wisdom.
The Hart Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the player that the Professional Hockey Writers Association deems most valuable to his team. While the actual inscription on the Hart Trophy leaves out the whole “to his team” part, I find that little prepositional phrase to be crucial. The NHL is unlike the MLB, whose MVP award has a simpler definition (“most outstanding player“), the same one used for the Ted Lindsay Award.
The Lindsay is the NHL’s real MVP award: voted on by the players and without consideration for team quality or any of the other logical convolutions that make the Hart the cause of ulcers for everyone silly enough to care about it.
Photo credit: Greg Fiume
Alex Ovechkin is playing very well. He leads the league in goals, has tallied 18 times in his last 16 games, and is the single biggest reason the Washington Capitals are headed to the playoffs. We think he should win the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player. Adam Oates, we now learn, agrees.
“I’m obviously very biased about that,” he told reporters after Washington’s 5-1 win on Tuesday, a game in which Ovechkin scored. “My answer would be yeah, absolutely. Obviously Sidney Crosby is another candidate for sure. He had such a scoring lead. But I think you’ve gotta factor in the fact that he’s missed a lot of games.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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