Alex Ovechkin Is the Only All-Star Representative for Capitals

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2009

Alex Ovechkin received the news he expected to hear yesterday. What the NHL's reigning MVP wasn't expecting, though, was to find out that he'll be the only player representative from the Washington Capitals at the All-Star Game in Montreal on Jan. 25.

"I don't know why Semin is not over there, and Greenie and Backie. I think they are top players in the league right now," Ovechkin said moments after the Eastern Conference all-star team was announced. "So it's pretty strange for me."

Ovechkin, who will be playing in the game for the third time, was referring to the exclusion of teammates Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom. While an argument can be made for Semin, Green and Backstrom, they were caught up in a numbers crunch created by the NHL's fan voting system and the league's desire to have each team represented in the game.

Ovechkin wasn't alone in expressing his disappointment in the choices.

"We understand the process," said Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, who remains in the mix to clinch a spot behind the bench. "But as a personal opinion, I don't agree with the process. I agree that people would much rather see the best players in the world rather than one representative from every team."

Of the Capitals Ovechkin thought were snubbed, Green probably has the most reason to be upset. The 23-year-old entered last night's games with more goals than any other defenseman in the Eastern Conference (10), despite missing 13 games with a shoulder injury. He also averages more points per game than any other defenseman (0.93) in the league while playing the most minutes on the Eastern Conference's second-best team.

"I would have been honored to go," Green said. "But I'm not going to say that I deserved to go. I'll go see my family."

Backstrom, meanwhile, entered last night fifth in the league in assists (33); Semin was second in the league in points per game (1.48) behind Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. Semin, though, has played in only 23 of the Capitals' 41 games because of injuries.

"We know on merit that Nick and Mike and maybe Alex Semin should all be on that," Boudreau said. "But that's not how [it] goes -- and it's not because they don't deserve to be on it."

There will be four players from Montreal, the host city, three from the conference-leading Boston Bruins, two Pittsburgh Penguins and one each from the 12 other teams.

The starters will consist of the Canadiens' and Penguins' players as determined by fan voting. Ovechkin, who entered last night's games tied for the league lead in goals (27) and second in points (53), finished a distant sixth.

Although being in the starting lineup means less in hockey than other sports because of the frequent line changes, Ovechkin said he would have preferred to have been voted a starter.

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