Ovi for Hart, Part II: Because the Capitals Needed Him

Andre Ringuette

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.

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RMNB Week in Review: The Week From Hell


Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

This is probably not a week that you want to remember in great detail, things didn’t go, uh — exactly as planned, but don’t worry, we’ll whip right through this quickly and painlessly and move along, there’s another game tonight, so there’s no time for moping. The Caps went 1-3-0 this week with losses against the Lightning, the Canes, and the Sens. Sad trombone. And just because a TSN commentator chose to utter the words “How could things get worse for the Washington Capitals?”, Alex Ovechkin also suffered a lower-body injury, didn’t participate in multiple team skates, and missed the game in Ottawa. Despite all this, the week did end on a good note when Ovechkin caught the Brooks Laich fever and unexpectedly declared himself ready to go, and then promptly scored against Montreal in a game that the Caps won. It’s a huge relief that it ended well, but I think most of us are just glad this week is over.

Elsewhere in the NHL, lots of other people were having bad weeks too. The day after it was revealed that his “upper-body injury” was probably a concussion, Jonathan Toews crashed his car into a pole, Pavel Datsyuk had knee surgery that will put him out for two to three weeks, Vincent Lecavalier is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, and the Maple Leafs goalie tandem is testing their franchise’s patience, Jeff Carter, on the other hand, had probably about the best week that he’s had in nine months as he was traded out of Columbus to the LA Kings, which is good news for him because it’s probably exhausting to keep up a sulk for that long.

In case you were wondering the most important question, though — how does everything in the world apply to the Washington Capitals? — we’ll break it down for you after the jump.

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Troy Brouwer

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Over the summer, General Manager George McPhee started snatching players like a rabid mom snatching groceries on Supermarket Sweeps. In are gritty NHL veterans like Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik, and Jeff Halpern. Out are fan-favorites like Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon.

Beyond the discounted signing of Tomas Vokoun, there may have been no better addition to the line-up than the Draft-night trade McPhee swung with the Chicago Blackhawks in which he landed Troy Brouwer for a first-round pick. Brouwer, who signed an affordable two-year deal worth $2,350,000 per year on July 6, was part of the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup Champion squad and is known in part for his physical, hard-hitting game. The 26-year-old right wing has also been a proven scorer at every level he’s played, tallying 20 goals in the NHL, 40-plus goals in the AHL, and 100-plus points in Juniors.

So with Opening Night only a few days away, what can Caps fans reasonably expect offensively from Brouwer? Also, how about some bizarre facts about Troy that only RMNB can dig up? Follow me past the jump to find out.

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Alex Ovechkin Signs Six-Year Deal with Bauer

Ovi sports his new gear. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Bauer)

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

The world’s most famous hockey player has got some new gear. After dropping CCM over the summer, Alex Ovechkin unveiled a new six-year sponsorship with rival manufacturer Bauer, whose equipment Ovi used for the first three years of his career. This is Ovechkin’s second new sponsorship of the week after news of his long-term deal with superpower Nike for “lifestyle” and “performance” products surfaced on Thursday night.

“I think that CCM treat me well,” Ovechkin told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “They help me a lot and without that project I can’t score 65 goals. But in that kind of moment and that kind of situation right now, I feel that Bauer is company who I’m looking forward to work with. I played with this stick a couple years ago and I like it.”

The move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. With Ovi’s ditching CCM — and therefore their parent company Reebok — that left Bauer as the only company with the cash to pickup a superstar endorsement.

The move was also teased on Bauer’s Web site over the holiday weekend, with their home page sporting a picture of skates with the Great Eight’s trademark yellow laces and the banner “This year will be different.”

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Capitals celebrate Mike Knuble's OTGWG

GROUP HUG! (Photo credit: Rob Carr)

Jason Chimera brings the intensity in a second period fight with Brent Seabrook. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

Jason Chimera brings the intensity in a second period fight with Brent Seabrook. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

In dramatic fashion, in front of a national television audience  and a sellout crowd at Verizon Center, the Cardiac Caps were once again back at work as Washington pushed their winning streak to eight. Less than one month ago it would have been hard to imagine any of this happening. Nevertheless, the Caps are now just a single point out of first-place in the Eastern Conference.

“Guys have a bit of a swagger right now, back to the way things were,” said Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest. After receiving a feed from Marian Hossa, Nick Leddy put the puck past Holtby. Just under two and a half minutes later, however, Boyd Gordon would knot the game at one. After picking up an errant pass by the ‘Hawks power play, Gordon raced down the wing before firing a slapper past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford for the shortie. Late in the first frame, after John Erskine drew a holding penalty, Washington headed to their recently anemic power play. This time, however, it would be different. New Cap Jason Arnott fired a bullet from the point that found twine, giving Washington their first lead of the game.

Three minutes into the second period, Chicago would tie the game at two when Holtby gave Tomas Kopecky a little too much daylight. Kopecky seized the opportunity, banking the puck off ‘keeper’s back from behind the goal-line. In the waining moments of the stanza, things got physical when Chicago’s Brent Seabrook delivered a hard check behind the net to Jason Chimera. Everyone favorite fire-footed, stone-handed forward took exception to Seabrook, challenging him to a duel. Seabrook appeared to come out with the win in the bout but it was Chimera got the take-down.

“Chimmer, I thought, he was a factor. He did not get a star or anything, but I thought he was a real big factor in the game,” said Chimera’s teammate Brooks Laich. “He was the one that sort of instigated that little rhubarb there. I think he does a good job and takes one of their top defenders off. So I think he had a very good night.”

Six and half in to the final frame, the aforementioned Laich put home Matt Hendricks’ (or more accurately Eric Fehr’s) feed from the corner to put the Caps on top. Washington appeared to be in control until Marcus Johansson was called for hooking at 18:10. “I thought it was a pretty chintzy call,” said Boudreau. On the ensuing Blackhawks power play, Jonathan Toews converted on a mad scrum in front of the net, as the puck bounced in off Holtby’s skate.

In overtime, the Capitals missed numerous chances until, finally, Mike Knuble — with a little help from Johansson — came to the rescue. Ballgame over. Caps top ‘Hawks, 4-3.

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A Portrait of supposedly the 9th best Center in the NHL, Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Al Bello/Editing by Ian Oland of RMNB)

Adrian Dater had an interesting post naming the top 10 centers in the NHL. As you would expect with 30 teams, each with 4 centers, some big names were omitted. The ranking is also subject to much debate. Take a look:

  1. Sidney Crosby, PIT
  2. Pavel Datsyuk, DET
  3. Henrik Sedin, VAN
  4. Jonathan Toews, CHI
  5. Mike Richards, PHI
  6. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
  7. Mikko Koivu, MIN
  8. Joe Thornton, SJS
  9. Nicklas Backstrom, WSH
  10. Ryan Getzlaf, ANA

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