After a season that saw him reclaim his place as one of the NHL’s most compelling offensive stars, Alex Ovechkin is glad to receive recognition by being named a finalist for the Hart Trophy.
But Friday morning, shortly after the announcement about the finalists for the league’s most valuable player, Ovechkin made it clear he has more on his mind than personal accolades.
“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. “Hard year, it was hard season for all of us and I’m happy to be in that kind of position.”
As has been well documented, Ovechkin switched to right wing at the beginning of the season at the request of his first-year Coach Adam Oates. The transition took time – Ovechkin recorded only 9 goals in the first 25 games – but thanks largely to a strong relationship between coach and star player, when things did come together offensively for the 27-year-old winger, they did so in dramatic fashion.
Ovechkin scored 23 of his league-best 32 goals in the final 23 games of the regular season. He recorded 13 of his 24 assists in that same span, which began March 14 against Carolina.
“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,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who was reunited with Ovechkin on the top line back in that game on March 14. “It takes a lot of courage to do that.”
As nice as it is to be up for the regular season award, Ovechkin’s focus remains on helping the Capitals win Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers Friday night at Verizon Center.
Ovechkin has one goal and one assist through four games of this first-round matchup, and while he wants to be scoring, he’ll just take a win.
“I just want to win; it doesn’t matter if I’m going to score or not,” Ovechkin said. “Playoffs it’s not about the scoring, beautiful play, it’s all about the winning. Of course I want to score and I want to win when I scoring, but right now most important thing is to get win.”