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.

After lopsided loss, Julien says it’s ‘not about the young D’

Claude Julien

The Boston Bruins’ young, makeshift defense failed to come through Thursday night as the B’s were thumped, 6-2, on home ice by the Winnipeg Jets.

Without injured veterans Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the defensive pairings were as follows:

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid
Joe MorrowKevan Miller
Matt IrwinZach Trotman

And let’s just say, turnovers were a factor:

That was Irwin getting checked off the puck there.

“I had the puck behind the net, and I went to one side of the net, and then I just didn’t use the net to my advantage,” he explained afterwards, per CSN New England. “He got his stick in there, obviously stripped me of the puck, and we all know what happened after that. I take full blame for that one.”

But head coach Claude Julien wasn’t willing to blame inexperience for the poor outing.

“It’s not about youth. It’s not about the young D,” said Julien. “It’s about our game without the puck. I think we might have gotten a little excited here about our offense and forgot about the other part of our game.”

And to be fair, even Boston’s more accomplished d-men had their challenging moments.

Here’s Krug failing to get position on Nicolas Petan in front of the Bruins’ net:

All in all, it was a tough night.

“We’ll correct those [mistakes] tomorrow in practice,” said Irwin. “We’re a confident group in here. We liked our offense. We liked the chances we were getting. All those mistakes, D-zone, are something that we’re going to work on and get better every day.”

The Bruins host their rivals from Montreal on Saturday.

Greene named 11th captain in Devils history

Dion Phaneuf; Andy Greene
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Andy Greene has been named Bryce Salvador’s successor as New Jersey’s team captain.

Greene, an undrafted free agent that’s spent his entire nine-year career with the Devils organization, becomes the 11th captain in the franchise’s history and third American to wear the “C” (Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were the others).

A former standout at Miami of Ohio, Greene — who served as an alternate captain in each of the last two seasons — has developed into a steady, durable blueliner that hasn’t missed a game in three years. He’s also locked into the Devils long term, having signed a five-year, $25 million extension with the club last summer.

That deal kicks in this season, and runs through 2020.

As for the rest of the leadership group, four players will serve as alternate captains this season: Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, and Adam Henrique.

Elias and Zajac both wore an “A” in New Jersey last year, while Cammalleri and Henrique are first-timers.