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NHL Awards: Ovechkin showed the most "Hart"

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have been compared and contrasted to each other a million times since they entered the league as rookies nearly three years ago.

If you don't like hearing about the duo, now would be a good time to accept that they are here to stay.

Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain, received more hype at the start of his career, but Ovechkin quickly drew attention to himself and the Washington Capitals through his play. In fact, both players have done an immeasurable job of re-energizing hockey fans in the Steel City and D.C.

In 2005-06, Ovechkin won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, beating out Crosby. However, last season belonged to Crosby, who picked up both MVP Awards as the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award recipient and also took home the Art Ross Trophy by leading the league in scoring.

Ovechkin will likely be the latest winner of the three awards Crosby took home a year ago, but the Russian sensation will also add the Rocket Richard Trophy to that list, as he led the NHL with 65 goals this season. He was the first player to reach the 60-goal plateau since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr of Pittsburgh notched 69 and 62 goals, respectively, in 1995-96.

Ovechkin also set a new league record for goals in a season by a left winger, breaking the mark of 63 tallies set by Los Angeles' Luc Robitaille in 1992-93.

Alexander Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin scored seven goals during the Capitals' season-ending, seven-game winning streak.
However, Crosby will always hold one distinction over Ovechkin, as he was the youngest player ever to win an NHL scoring title and the second youngest to be named MVP of the league. Although the players came into the league at the same time, the 22-year-old Ovechkin is two years Crosby's senior.

The Ross and Richard Trophies are already set, and it seems that the Hart and Pearson are practically a foregone conclusion as well, even though the NHL doesn't reveal the winners of the MVP awards until after the Stanley Cup finals.

Crosby won the Hart and Pearson by notching 120 points and getting Pittsburgh into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the East last season. Ovechkin, meanwhile, recorded 112 points and played his team into the third seed as the Southeast Division champions. The Penguins had missed the playoffs in four straight seasons before last year, while Washington got back to the postseason after a three-year absence.

Ovechkin was especially productive with the pressure on in the closing month of the season, recording 29 points in Washington's final 17 games. He scored seven goals during the Capitals' season-ending, seven-game winning streak.

What really sticks out in terms of Ovechkin's MVP credentials is the percentage of Washington's offense he was accountable for this season. His 65 goals were roughly 27 percent of Washington's 242 markers on the season, and he also assisted on 47 other Capitals tallies.

The consensus among NHL pundits was that Ovechkin would win the MVP if the Capitals made it to the playoffs. In reality, Ovechkin should have won the award regardless of whether or not his team made it to the postseason.

Where would the Caps have been if Ovechkin scored 20 goals less? That still would have placed him fourth in the league in goals, but the damage to Washington's season would have been more than noticeable.

Ovechkin will get the biggest prizes on award night, but here are predictions for the rest of the hardware:

VEZINA TROPHY (Best Goaltender)

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey

Brodeur is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and has actually won three of the last four awards. There is no reason he shouldn't make it four Vezinas in five years for his play during the 2007-08 regular season. Brodeur extended his NHL record by notching 30 wins for the 12th straight year and his 43 victories this season allowed him to pass that plateau for the seventh time in his Hall- of-Fame career. He also posted a sparkling 2.18 goals against average and .920 save percentage while playing in 76 games. The 35-year-old's presence on New Jersey's roster seems to be enough to get the Devils into the postseason every year. New Jersey is headed to the playoffs for the 11th straight season, and the Devils have actually made the postseason in 13 of Brodeur's 14 years as the team's primary goaltender.

Other finalists: Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose; Henrik Lundqvist, NY Rangers

NORRIS TROPHY (Best Defenseman)

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit

While Brodeur has had a lock on the Vezina recently, Lidstrom has an even firmer grip on the Norris Trophy. The Swedish superstar has won the distinction in two straight and five of the last six seasons. This year, he led all defenseman with 68 points (8g, 60a) and an amazing plus-40 rating. He also captained the Red Wings to their third Presidents' Trophy in four years. However, the voting for this award could be closer than usual as Boston's Zdeno Chara also had a fine offensive year (51 points) in addition to being a bigger physical presence than Lidstrom.

Other finalists: Zdeno Chara, Boston; Andrei Markov, Montreal

ADAMS TROPHY (Coach of the Year)

Guy Carbonneau, Montreal

This award could go a few different ways, but Carbonneau should win the Adams for a couple of big reasons. First of all, the Canadiens were picked by many experts to finish out of the playoffs and possibly last in the Northeast Division. Instead, Carbonneau led the Habs to their first division crown since 1992 and Montreal finished with the No. 1 seed the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1988-89. The Canadiens also notched 104 points, their most since 1988-89, and the club eclipsed the century mark for the first time since posting 102 points in their last Stanley Cup championship year of 1992-93. Also, Carbonneau has the added pressure of being a former standout Canadiens player, coaching in hockey-crazy Montreal. Bruce Boudreau did an unbelievable job in Washington after replacing Glen Hanlon 21 games into the season, but Carbonneau has my vote.

Other finalists: Bruce Boudreau, Washington; Jacques Lemaire, Minnesota

CALDER TROPHY (Rookie of the Year)

Patrick Kane, Chicago

Kane was the top overall pick in the 2007 draft, but few people expected him to produce this quickly at the NHL level. After all, the 19-year-old hardly has an NHL frame at 5-9, 160-pounds, but his quickness and hands make up for any lack of size. Kane played in every game this year and led all rookies and the Blackhawks with 72 points (21g, 51a). His teammate Jonathan Toews led first-year players with 24 goals and may have won this award if he hadn't missed 18 games to injury. Carey Price, Montreal's 20-year-old starting goaltender, may have made some inroads toward winning this award late in the season, but Kane should get the nod.

Other finalists: Carey Price, Montreal; Nicklas Backstrom, Washington

SELKE TROPHY (Best Defensive Forward)

Patrick Sharp, Chicago

Rod Brind'Amour won this award in each of the last two years and may have taken it again if he hadn't suffered a season-ending injury in February. Sharp, meanwhile, was a menace all season long on the penalty kill and tied for the NHL lead with seven short-handed goals. He is also a plus-23 for the season and was used in key defensive situations for the Blackhawks. Not to mention his profile was raised greatly this season as a result of his career- high 36 goals.

Other finalists: Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa; Mike Richards, Philadelphia

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Dan Di Sciullo
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