Alex Ovechkin's Reign Might Continue - Hart Trophy Isn't All Washington Capitals Star Wants

Alex Ovechkin raises his arm Wednesday night after his goal that has had more than 100,000 YouTube views.
Alex Ovechkin raises his arm Wednesday night after his goal that has had more than 100,000 YouTube views. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2009

While fans debate where Alex Ovechkin's goal Wednesday night against Montreal ranks on a résumé replete with breathtaking goals, there's no argument -- at least inside the Washington Capitals' locker room -- about who has the lead in this season's Hart Trophy race.

"It would be pretty hard to go against him," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We have some good players surrounding him. But if you look at what he's done in the third period and the winning goals and at crunch time, that's when you need your guys the most. And he's there all the time."

"I hope he gets two [MVP's] in a row," he added with a laugh. "Then we'll work on the Conn Smythe," awarded to the playoff MVP.

No player has won MVP in consecutive seasons since goaltender Dominik Hasek did it as a member of the Buffalo Sabres in 1997 and 1998. Ovechkin, however, is making a strong case to match the feat.

He leads the league in goals (42) and is second in points (75), behind only Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin (84). More telling, though, are Ovechkin's statistics when the game is on the line. He has more goals in the third period than anyone else (20) and was tied with San Jose's Patrick Marleau for the league lead in game winners (9 entering play last night).

And, of course, he has produced highlights such as the goal he scored in the first period against the Canadiens. Ovechkin beat Montreal's Roman Hamrlik by passing the puck to himself off the boards -- while pirouetting to avoid the defenseman. Then Ovechkin chipped in the puck as he slid on his side past goaltender Carey Price.

A day later, the Capitals still were in awe.

"The falling, the deking and getting the puck in from the seat of your pants, you've seen that a lot," Boudreau said. "But it was the backhand pass in the neutral zone [around Hamrlik] and then staying at full speed that was quite remarkable."

The combination of a crisp line change for the Capitals and a sloppy one for the Canadiens was a big part of the play, too, Boudreau said.

"It was a great line change by us," Boudreau said. "We constantly harp on when you change you come off hard and you go on hard. If [Ovechkin] hadn't gone on hard, he wouldn't have been able to touch it on his back hand."

Boudreau also sympathized with Hamrlik, saying: "Who expects that? Maybe he's never seen that move in the 15 years he's been in the NHL."

As of yesterday afternoon, Ovechkin's goal had been viewed 100,000 times on YouTube, 20,000 on the Capitals' Web site and had peaked at 17th in Google's most-searched list.

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