Alex Ovechkin eyes two individual titles as Capitals' season winds down
Thursday, April 8, 2010
While the Washington Capitals have achieved almost everything a team can during the regular season, their captain will enter the final two games with some unfinished business: claiming the goal-scoring title and the scoring championship.
Alex Ovechkin vaulted back into the running for both the Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Art Ross trophies with a two-goal performance in Tuesday's 6-3 victory. Now, he has home games against Atlanta and Boston to put a storybook ending to his most challenging season, a campaign marked by his first significant injury, Russia's stunning disappointment at the Olympics and two suspensions for hits that have dinged his reputation.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he has contemplated resting some of his star players ahead of the playoffs, which begin next week. But he said Wednesday that Ovechkin will choose whether to play or rest because of what's at stake.
"It would be pretty difficult for the coach to sit a guy out and say, 'It's for the good of the team,' " Boudreau said. "It's up to Alex, but the races are so close, so I would venture to guess that Alex is going to want to play."
Entering Thursday's games, Ovechkin is tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with 48 goals and sat one ahead of Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos in the battle for the Richard.
Crosby and Stamkos, though, have one more game than Ovechkin, who is seeking to become the first player to win the Richard three times. Crosby is set to face Atlanta and the New York Islanders twice, while Stamkos has Ottawa and Florida twice.
In the race for the Art Ross Trophy, it's down to Ovechkin and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, who, with 107 points, leads his Capitals counterpart by one. Like the Capitals, Sedin's Canucks have two games remaining, against San Jose and Calgary.
Ovechkin, the 2007-08 scoring champion, has history on his side. In five games against the Thrashers, Ovechkin has three goals and four assists; in three games against the Bruins, he has three goals and three assists.
The two-time MVP has also shown a knack for closing out the regular season with a flourish.
In his first four seasons, he totaled six goals and three assists in the final two games and registered multi-point efforts four times.
If the there is a tie for the Richard, the award is shared. If the there is a tie for the Art Ross, the award goes to the player with the most goals.
Although Ovechkin downplayed the significance of winning either trophy, Boudreau, a prolific scorer at the junior and minor league level himself, knows what the titles mean. Twice Boudreau lost a scoring title on the final day of the regular season.
"I don't think he would be crestfallen if he didn't win," Boudreau said of his star winger, who, like the rest of his teammates, had Wednesday off. "But I know Alex well enough. If you play cards with him, he wants to win. If you're on jet skis and you're racing, he wants to win. He's got the built-in pride that he wants to win everything."