The case for Alex Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy

Ovi4.jpgAs we near the end of the season, we’re going to take a look at
who we think should be three finalists for the Hart, Norris and Calder
Trophies, making arguments for each. We start with the Hart
Trophy, given to the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. Next up: Alex Ovechkin.
 

Why he deserves it: He’s the best player on the NHL’s
best team. He’s currently at an otherwordly plus-43, and is in the hunt
for the Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals) and the Art Ross (most
points), despite missing ten games this season due to injury and/or
suspension. He won’t come close to his career high in goals (65), but
he’s elevated his overall game and becoming more more team-oriented,
with a career high in assists (58) this season.

He’s the most
exciting player in the NHL to watch, whether it’s his incredible shot
and offensive ability to his aggressiveness and physicality — no matter
how controversial it might be. He leads the NHL’s most potent offense,
and it’s tough to deny he’s one of the top three players in the NHL.
Some will argue he’s the best overall player in the league.

Why
he doesn’t deserve it:
The Hart goes to the NHL’s most valuable
player, and while Ovechkin is certainly the best player on the Capitals
the fact that the team around him is so good goes against him in the
long run. Without Ovechkin on the ice, the Capitals don’t suddenly
become a wholly mediocre team and they barely lose a step. They are
still the most dangerous team in the NHL, whether Ovechkin is playing or
not. With him on the ice the team just becomes that much better, and no
matter how scary that might be it’s tough to say he’s more valuable to
his team than others that might be up for the award. He’s also finishing
the season playing much more safe and more conservative than we’re used
to seeing, and will have a career low in shots for the season.

Why
he’ll get it:
Alex Ovechkin is the best player on the NHL’s
best team. He’s the most exciting player to watch on the most exciting
team to watch. He gets the most media attention than any other player in
the NHL (aside from perhaps Sidney Crosby), and it’s tough to deny just
how important he is to the Capitals and the NHL.

And he wears yellow laces.

Why he
won’t get it:
The fact that this has been such a controversial
season for Ovechkin, while he’s suffered through a post-Olympics slump,
will work against him. It’s tough to give the Hart to a player who has
been suspended multiple times this season, and when he was out the team
barely suffered because of it. He’s also won the Hart two times
previously; perhaps it’s another’s time to shine.

Previously:
Henrik
Sedin

Scroll Down For:

    Video: Max Domi hurt after big hit, fight with Garnet Hathaway

    Leave a comment

    Dave Tippett insists that, even though he suffered an upper-body injury, Max Domi has to play with the sort of edge he showed tonight.

    But, yeah, that edge left him bleeding this time around.

    As you can see from the video above, Domi and Garnet Hathaway engaged in a fierce fight after a hit by Domi. The Arizona Coyotes forward left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury, and is now considered day-to-day. The price of doing business?

    Domi grabbed an assist during the game, so maybe this will be the sort of thing that helps him get back on track.

    Speaking of back on track, the Flames are now on a five-game winning streak while the Coyotes dropped their sixth in a row as Calgary won 2-1 in overtime. Chad Johnson remains brilliant, Mike Smith keeps getting Arizona points (they may or may not actually want in the long run) and, hey, Dougie Hamilton is still a Flame:

    Penguins keep pace with Rangers on top of Metro

    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 08: Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a shot on Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers during a game  at BB&T Center on December 8, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Sidney Crosby is tied for the NHL goal-scoring lead, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are tied atop the division.

    They certainly impressed the struggling Florida Panthers and their new coach.

    Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Penguins over the Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

    Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

    The Penguins have won four straight, scoring 24 goals in the process. Pittsburgh had a 3-0 lead on five shots less than eight minutes in.

    “It was nice to start with the lead. It was kind of weird the way things worked out,” Crosby said. “We didn’t have many shots, but we had a few goals right off the bat.”

    Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers.

    Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses.

    “I thought we showed them way too much respect in the beginning of the game. We were back on our heels a little bit,” Rowe said. “Obviously, they’ve got two of the best players in the world and I think it could have intimidated some of our younger guys a little bit.”

    The Panthers have lost six of seven.

    “It’s a work in progress, I guess,” Rowe said. “We’ve still got a lot of young guys in the lineup.”

    Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead on Crosby’s goal 3:06 in. Crosby snapped a wrist shot from above the right circle that got through several Florida defenders and past Luongo.

    Crosby is tied with Boston’s David Pastrnak for the NHL lead in goals.

    “With us, we knew that they were going to be motivated,” Crosby said. “They’ve played a lot of close games lately, a lot of overtime games. When you get a new coach, everybody is trying to prove themselves. I think we expected a pretty tough game. It was just nice to get that kind of start.”

    The Penguins extended their lead to 2-0 on Sheary’s tally. The initial shot by Sheary missed the net, but the puck came off the end boards and into the crease and was inadvertently kicked across the goal line by Luongo at 4:51. Crosby had an assist on the goal.

    “(Crosby) is always the guy that takes the lead,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “His line gets us a couple goals early on and gets us the lead and speaks volumes for the leadership he displays night in and night out.”

    Pittsburgh stretched the score to 3-0 when Scott Wilson‘s shot from the right circle deflected off Kuhnhackl and into the net at 7:34. The Panthers unsuccessfully challenged the goal, claiming Kuhnhackl interfered with Luongo.

    The Panthers closed to 3-1 on Jagr’s power-play goal. Aleksander Barkov passed from below the right circle to Jagr in the slot, and his one-timer beat Murray at 6:17 of the second.

    Cullen gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead at 5:48 of the third when he grabbed a rebound in front and put the puck between the pads of Luongo.

    Hagelin added an empty-net goal with 32.9 seconds left to make the score 5-1.

    Notes: The Penguins have gone 6-0-2 in their past eight games against the Panthers. … The Penguins sent LW Jake Guentzel and D Derrick Pouliot to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. … Jagr has 1,882 points, putting him six behind Mark Messier for second place on the career list. … Panthers C Jonathan Marchessault missed his third game with a lower-body injury. … Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield attended the game.

    UP NEXT:

    Penguins: Visit Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

    Panthers: Host Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

    It’s probably too early for Predators to worry about Rinne, right?

    ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators looks on during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks  at Honda Center on October 26, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    December hasn’t been kind to November’s player of the month so far.

    Pekka Rinne helped hold the Nashville Predators together when they struggled early and then was there for their recent ascent, but coming into this season, many expected him to be a weakness for his team.

    Especially worried types might wonder if “that” Rinne is returning after a tough Thursday performance in the Dallas Stars’ eventual 5-2 win against the Predators.

    Rinne allowed four goals on 18 shots before being taken out of the game about six minutes into the second period. One of his best moments was this bit of unintentional comedy:

    All kidding aside, it’s been a rough run lately, even if the sample size is small enough that it would be silly to panic.

    While he did grab a win during this span, Rinne’s now allowed 12 goals in his last four games. That’s happened on 68 shots on goal, so he’d have a .823 save percentage for this span.

    During his magnificent month of November, he generated an awe-inspiring .949 save percentage over 12 games.

    Such a staggering disparity shows how wildly a goalie’s stats can swing thanks to an off night or two.

    It would be foolish to overreact, but it’s a situation to watch as the Predators hope to round into a legitimate contender out West.

    Max Pacioretty had a good, painful reason for his goal slump

    MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 12:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens takes a shot during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre on November 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    If your reaction to Max Pacioretty‘s relative struggles in November was to call him “soft,” you might want to backtrack right about now.

    Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported and Michel Therrien later confirmed that Pacioretty had been playing through the previous month with a broken foot (hairline fracture to be precise). That foot is healed up, allegedly.

    It’s easy to look at his split stats and say, “Yeah, that explains it.”

    October: two goals, seven points in nine games
    November: three goals, eight points in 14 games
    December: three goals, four points in four games, including a tally in Thursday’s 5-2 win against the Devils.

    Either way, with Greg Pateryn added to an injury list that includes David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk, the Habs have to commend their captain for gritting his teeth through what must have been an agonizing month.

    Then again, with his “Wolverine” healing powers, maybe it wasn’t as bad as it sounds …