Alex Ovechkin is a Hart Trophy finalist as NHL MVP following his 32-goal season that propelled the Washington Capitals to the Southeast Division title.
Ovechkin led the league in goals and finished with 56 points, tied with fellow top-three vote-getter Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. John Tavares of the New York Islanders is the other finalist.
“It’s nice and I’m sure I’m going to have time to celebrate later but right now it’s all about business and focus on the game,” Ovechkin said before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.
Ovechkin won the Hart Trophy in 2007-08 and 2008-09. He already won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy this year by virtue of leading the NHL in goals.
Coach Adam Oates, who could warrant Jack Adams Award consideration for his hand in the Caps’ turnaround, has stumped for Ovechkin’s MVP case several times.
“I’m happy for him,” Oates said Friday. “You saw that he carried our team and really helped us go in the right direction.”
Ovechkin finished with 23 goals and 13 assists in the Caps’ final 23 games as they went from the dregs of the Eastern Conference to the playoffs. He had nine goals in his first 25 games.
“I think after taking a lot of heat and people were on him a lot, he just turned it around and started scoring and played better,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “It takes a lot of courage to do that.”
Proud of the Richard Trophy because he hadn’t won any individual awards since 2009-10 (Ted Lindsay for most outstanding player as chosen by NHLPA), Ovechkin called being a finalist for the Hart “big.”
“Hard year, it was hard season for all of us and I’m happy to be in that kind of position,” the 27-year-old said.
By definition, the Hart Trophy is awarded “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” Ovechkin scored 21.9 percent of Washington’s goals, while Tavares scored 20.7 percent of New York’s goals.