The NHL has been releasing its list of three finalists for each award this week, with the award sure to cause to most controversy coming out on Friday. The three finalists for the Hart Trophy, handed to the league’s most valuable player, included Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and John Tavares.
Ovechkin is an interesting choice here. While the likes of Crosby and Tavares were in the race all year, even when the former went down with his injury in the second half of the season, Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals struggled mightily at the beginning of this year, nearly leading to an early elimination.
Despite finishing with only four points in the month of January, Ovechkin went on a tear in the last half, maybe even three-quarters of the season. His success was the largest factor in the Capitals being able to turn their season around after that rough start.
Ovechkin finished the season tied for third in the league with 56 points. He won the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer, finishing with 32 on the season. Of those 32, 20 came after the midway point of the season, with four streaks of at least three games in which he scored at least one goal.
It’s the fact that Ovechkin got off to such a rough start that has many questioning whether or not he should be a Hart Trophy finalist. After all, the award is for the total body of work over a season, not just a strong second half. Should Ovechkin have been considered?
You could make an argument for several other players that should have been in the mix for the award, perhaps even over Ovechkin. That list includes the likes of Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis, probably among others. But that doesn’t make Ovechkin any less deserving of the award.
Without Ovechkin, the Capitals are obviously at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. He’s a franchise player. When he started performing as such, this Capitals team morphed into a Stanley Cup contender almost immediately. He carried this team to a division title after that miserable start.
It’s almost hard to overstate the value of Ovechkin to the Capitals organization. Fifty-six points, 27 of which came on the power play, and 120 hits in 48 games is pretty fantastic. There’s no doubt he should be among the three finalists for the Hart Trophy, even if you could make the case for others that belonged as well.