- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

TORONTO | The NHL awards show turned into a Washington Capitals coronation.

While the Caps just missed out on a clean sweep of the three major awards Thursday, Alex Ovechkin won both of the league’s MVP trophies, Bruce Boudreau was named coach of the year and Nicklas Backstrom finished second in the voting for the league’s top rookie.

“Alex, to be blunt, I wasn’t surprised - I was expecting it,” Caps owner Ted Leonsis said. “But with Bruce, I jumped out of my seat I was so happy for him and his wife. … Short of winning the [Stanley] Cup, it may not get better than tonight.”

Ovechkin is the first league MVP in franchise history and the first in the District in one of the four major sports since Joe Theismann in 1983. Along with winning the Hart Trophy from the writers and the Lester B. Pearson Award from fellow players, he was named to the First All-Star Team for the third straight season. Goalie Terry Sawchuk (1951 to 1953) was the last to do so in his first three seasons.

Boudreau is the second Jack Adams Award winner for the Caps, joining Bryan Murray in 1984. Backstrom, vying to be Washington’s second Calder Memorial Trophy winner alongside Ovechkin, finished second to Chicago’s Patrick Kane.

“When they called my name, I had no idea - my wife had to hit me,” Boudreau said. “Even though you think you have a chance, you just never think you’re going to get your name called.”

Ovechkin picked up the Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Art Ross trophies for leading the league in goals (65) and points (112) before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He scored the most goals by any player since 1996 and became the first Russian player to lead the NHL in points.

The show was only part of a whirlwind few days for the 22-year-old. He was in this city for the official launch of his new CCM Streetwear clothing line Wednesday night.

“It is something new,” Ovechkin said. “When I was kid, I have no style. I have only one [pair of] socks and one pants. I think it is always fun when you do something new. It is new step for my life, and I hope it goes well.”

He will be back in the District on Friday to receive a ceremonial key to the city from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in a public celebration on the steps of the Wilson Building and to attend a party in his honor thrown by Leonsis at a chic restaurant.

After that he will return to Russia for the rest of the summer to train … when he is not vacationing in Turkey with teammate Alexander Semin and others.

“I think I am the happiest 22-year-old in the planet right now,” Ovechkin said. “I have great family. Everything I’ve got I make myself by working hard. … I am happy with what I am doing, and I am happy life goes on.”

Boudreau began the season with Hershey, the team’s minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League. He was promoted to replace Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving with the team floundering at 6-14-1.

He guided the Caps to a remarkable turnaround, rallying from 30th place in the NHL - and 14th in the Eastern Conference at the season’s midpoint - to capture a Southeast Division title and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Washington went 37-17-7 after Boudreau moved behind the bench.

His attacking, aggressive style not only brought instant success, it made Washington one of the league’s most exciting teams. Boudreau’s philosophy and strategy also looked a lot like those of another of the finalists, new Cup champion Mike Babcock of Detroit.

“What’s funny is we talked earlier today, and we both agreed that we play the same way,” Boudreau said. “You sit back and go, ‘Maybe I am doing the right things.’”

His two young awards finalists were two of the biggest beneficiaries from the switch. Ovechkin had 51 goals in Boudreau’s 61 games, while Backstrom had 13 of his 14 goals and 60 of his 69 points in that span.

Backstrom, who was named to the league’s All-Rookie Team, began the season on the wing with countryman Michael Nylander’s line, and his assimilation came slowly at first. A switch back to his natural center position and Boudreau’s arrival helped spur the 20-year-old Backstrom to a franchise-best 55 assists for a rookie. Kane’s teammate, Jonathan Toews, was the other finalist.

“I talked to them a little bit,” Backstrom said of Kane and Toews. “They’ve been good for Chicago, and they’re good players. I think they’re good guys too.”

- Ovechkin received 133 of 134 first-place votes for the All-Star team. Henrik Zetterberg garnered the other first-place vote. Ovechkin received 128 of 134 first-place votes for the Hart Trophy. He was second on four ballots, third on one and was not in the top five on one ballot. He also finished ninth in the Lady Byng Trophy voting.

Caps defenseman Mike Green finished seventh in the Norris Trophy and All-Star voting, and goaltender Cristobal Huet was eighth in the Vezina Trophy voting.



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