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.

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.

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.


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    Unhappy reunion: Red Wings chase Flyers’ Mrazek

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    For a while, it looked like Petr Mrazek would enjoy a strong showing in his return to Detroit against his former teammates in the Red Wings.

    Things went sideways pretty fast, which sadly has been a growing trend for the struggling Philadelphia Flyers goalie. Mrazek was given the hook halfway through Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings after allowing three goals in about four minutes.

    It’s the second time in three games that Mrazek’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon. The Flyers now face a 3-1 deficit in the third period; you can see if they manage to rally on NBCSN or via this live stream.

    As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Evgeny Svechnikov’s first NHL goal made it 3-1, and that was the last straw. Mrazek actually made a nice stop earlier in the sequence, yet even then, he looked a bit scrambly before Svechnikov ended up scoring.

    Luke Glendening‘s shorthanded goal had to sting quite a bit, too:

    Dylan Larkin scored the other Detroit goal during that burst, breaking a lengthy scoring slump.

    Coming into Tuesday’s game, Mrazek was already struggling, sporting an unsightly .867 save percentage in March. Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a logical move in acquiring Mrazek from the Red Wings, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out in Philly, at least at the moment.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Ovechkin passes Kurri for 19th all-time with goal 602


    It’s unclear if Alex Ovechkin will best the next great Finnish sniper for the Maurice Richard Trophy, but he passed one of the best Finnish scorers ever in the all-time goal rankings on Tuesday.

    With the 602nd goal of his already-impressive career, Ovechkin now sits alone at 19th place in NHL history, breaking a tie with Wayne Gretzky’s former partner-in-crime Jari Kurri. It says a lot about Ovechkin’s sniping that he reached 602 in game 994 of his career, while Kurri finished with 601 goals in 1,251 regular-season games.

    Ovechkin also broke a tie with Patrik Laine for the goals lead in 2017-18, at least for now (both Ovechkin and Laine can beef up their stats as tonight goes along).

    [The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

    Ovechkin’s 602nd goal is also his 44th of the season, and it’s very much from “his office.”

    Keeping up with the Finnish theme, take a look at how many goals Ovechkin needs to score to catch Teemu Selanne at 11th place:

    11. Selanne: 684 goals.
    12. Luc Robitaille: 668
    13. Brendan Shanahan: 656
    14. Dave Andreychuk: 640
    15 (tied). Jarome Iginla, Joe Sakic: 625
    17. Bobby Hull: 610
    18. Dino Ciccarelli: 608
    19. Ovechkin: 602

    If he closes out 2017-18 with a burst, Ovechkin could conceivably push Ciccarelli or even Hull. It would be tough to imagine Ovechkin reaching Robitaille through 2018-19, but either way, the Capitals superstar has a chance to rocket up the ranks in little time.

    [Can Ovechkin catch Gretzky’s 894 goals?]

    After their respective games tonight, both the Capitals and Jets have nine more games remaining before the playoffs begin. It should be an entertaining race to the Richard, and maybe another 50-goal season if Ovechkin really heats up.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at Detroit Red Wings

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    Philadelphia Flyers

    Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny

    Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek

    Jordan WealValtteri FilppulaWayne Simmonds

    Jori LehteraScott Laughton — Matt Read

    Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere

    Travis Sanheim — Andrew MacDonald

    Robert HaggRadko Gudas

    Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek

    [Flyers – Red Wings preview]

    Detroit Red Wings

    Tyler BertuzziHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

    Darren HelmDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha

    Justin AbdelkaderFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

    Evgeny Svechnikov — Luke GlendeningMartin Frk

    Niklas KronwallMike Green

    Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

    Danny DeKeyserNick Jensen

    Jimmy Howard

    Derick Brassard trying to fit in, not be ‘savior’ with Penguins

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    When Derick Brassard hits the ice for his first shift Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, he’ll be involved in his 10th game as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since coming over from the Ottawa Senators in that wild three-team deal just before the NHL trade deadline last month, the 30-year-old center has a goal and four points.

    Any player who goes from a lottery team to a contender around the trade deadline has pressure on them. Their new team gave up assets in hopes that they were either the last piece of a championship puzzle or someone who can fill a role and strengthen an area. In Brassard’s case, he was brought over to take over third-line center duties behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins had options, like Riley Sheahan, but were looking for an upgrade in order to bolster their bottom six.

    Luckily for Brassard, he joined a team that’s won the last two Stanley Cups and has a locker room full of stars who have mantles full of various accomplishments. The Penguins are lined up for another Cup run, and these last few weeks have given him an opportunity to blend into a lineup that’s looking for a three-peat.

    [The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

    “I know it’s going to take a little time. I feel like I have a lot more to give. It’s a process,” Brassard said last week after a morning skate at Madison Square Garden. “I’m going to take some time here and try and make sure I’m going into the playoffs with my ‘A’ game.”

    Brassard admitted he’s still not at a full comfort level since the trade, but that will take time. He’s been playing mostly with Phil Kessel on one of his wings as Bryan Rust, Riley Sheahan and Conor Sheary have seen time on the other side at even strength. That’s the good fortune that head coach Mike Sullivan has — he has that option to mix and match players given the lineup he’s working with.

    Brassard knows his role behind Crosby and Malkin, and that’s alleviated any pressure of trying to do too much when it’s time to hop over the boards.

    “For me, playing behind those two guys I don’t try to put any pressure on myself,” he said. “I just try to be myself. This group proved that the last two years. I’m not here to be a savior. I’m just going to try and play my game and be myself.”

    While on the ice he’s still finding his way, in the dressing room it’s been a smooth transition with plenty of familiarity.

    • He was teammates with Carl Hagelin and Matt Hunwick with the New York Rangers, who also employed Sullivan as an assistant while Brassard was there.

    • He played against Sidney Crosby in junior hockey.

    • In each of the last four postseasons, his previous two teams — the Rangers and Senators — have met the Penguins and gone 2-2 against them .

    Having been eliminated by the eventual champions the last two seasons, Brassard is hoping for a different ending this time around.

    “It’s nice to be on this side,” he said. “It’s a really good team and I have a chance to do something special.”


    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.