PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Ovi catches fire, wins third MVP


Remember when it seemed like Alex Ovechkin lost his way? Such talk seems like a distant memory now, especially after he won the third Hart and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies of his career in 2013.

Lofty status

Ovechkin, still just 28, joined select company with his hardware. Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are the only other players who’ve won at least three MVP trophies. The Richard Trophy has only existed since 1998-99 but, even with that caveat, it’s still impressive that Ovechkin became the first three-time recipient.

In 2013, Ovechkin returned to level where teams likely felt relieved if he scored just once per night.

The Russian star generated six multiple-goal outings last season, including a stretch in which he scored eight goals in five games. Despite struggling right after the lockout (two goals in seven January games), Ovechkin still impressed with that league-best 32 goals in 48 contests.

Overall, he had 56 points on the season, leaving him third behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Martin St. Louis (60) and Steven Stamkos (57).

The switch

Capitals head coach Adam Oates drew some heat for moving Ovechkin to right wing last season, but the move paid off when Ovi finished the season with 24 goals in 23 contests. (In fact, that move was so dramatic it confounded many hockey writers, who voted him a first-team All-Star at right wing and a second-teamer left wing.)

Following his hardware-heavy season, Ovechkin thanked Oates for his guidance after feeling “trapped” by Dale Hunter. Impressively, Ovechkin’s 32 goals from 2012-13 matched his output over 79 games in 2009-10 and weren’t far behind 2011-12’s production (38 goals in 78 contests), adding credence to the notion that Oates helped him return to form.

“I told him, ‘Thank you very much,’” Ovechkin said. “I’m just happy because, again, it’s history. It means a lot for me. It’s history.”

Oddly enough, the hockey world saw “old” Ovi again after the winger embraced change and allowed himself to trust Oates.

Keeping the momentum going

It’s not as if Ovechkin is showing any signs of stopping, either. He carried over his brilliant work from last season into this one and has 30 goals in 35 contests thus far. Some wonder if he might accomplish the rare feat of scoring 50 goals in as many games:

Incredibly, Ovechkin has generated 62 goals in 83 games between last season and this season. To give you an idea of that special pace, consider this: Stamkos (60 in 2011-12) and Ovechkin (65 in 2007-08) are the only snipers to cross the 60-goal barrier since Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) did it in 1995-96.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

1 Comment

The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
Leave a comment

One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

Leave a comment

The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced to do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”