While the 2013 NHL playoffs didn't go particularly well for Washington Capitals star forward Alexander Ovechkin, as he scored just one goal in a seven-game ouster against the New York Rangers, he captured the Hart Memorial Trophy as a reward for his stellar regular-season play.
New York Daily News reporter Pat Leonard had the news:
Arguably the most prestigious award the NHL has to offer, the Hart Trophy goes to the player who is judged to be most valuable to his team. Ovechkin had stiff competition in the form of Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and New York Islanders center John Tavares, but he ultimately prevailed.
This marks the third time that "The Great Eight" has won the Hart Trophy, as he was also named league MVP in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Only three players in the history of the league have won the Hart Trophy more times than Ovechkin, an impressive list that boasts Wayne Gretzky (nine), Gordie Howe (six) and Eddie Shore (four).
The victory puts him in a fourth-place tie with Howie Morenz, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke and Mario Lemieux. All of them are currently members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, so all signs point to Ovechkin having a nice plaque in his honor in Toronto one day.
The historical significance of this win can't be understated, as it puts Ovechkin in rarefied air. No non-Canadian player had ever won the Hart Trophy more than twice, so it may not be a stretch to call Ovechkin the greatest non-Canadian player of all time. That is quite amazing when you consider that he is only 27 years old and has plenty of great years in his future.
Ovechkin's 2012-13 season was a bit of a roller coaster, but the numbers were impressive once the regular season came to an end. The Russian winger led the NHL with 32 goals to capture the third Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy of his fantastic career. Ovechkin added 24 assists and finished in a third-place tie with 56 points overall.
Ovechkin was at his most dangerous when the Caps had a man advantage. He led the NHL with 16 power-play markers, and he also led the league with 220 shots. Many of those shots were cannons from the point on Washington power plays. Only 14.5 percent of Ovechkin's shots found the back of the net, but he certainly wasn't afraid to pull the trigger.
While Ovechkin's year got off to a rough start, as he had only five goals through the first month of the lockout-shortened season, he kicked it into another gear as the season wore on. Ovechkin was at his best when the Capitals needed him most, as he scored 14 goals in 13 games in the month of April and helped Washington capture the Southeast Division as well as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Ovechkin's efforts may not have translated to postseason success, but the Hart Trophy is a regular-season award. If not for the play of Ovechkin down the stretch, it is entirely possible that the Capitals would have missed the playoffs altogether. The Hart Trophy is about value, and no player was more valuable to his team than Ovechkin.
The 2012-13 NHL season was far from a conventional one, but it ends with an all-too-familiar sight. Ovechkin has become synonymous with the Hart Trophy, and it is certainly possible that he will have the opportunity to hold it many more times in the future.
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