Ovechkin completed a clean sweep of major NHL Awards on Thursday in Toronto when he was named the recipient of the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Hart Trophy. Having already won the Art Ross Trophy and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Ovechkin becomes the first player in NHL history to claim all four of those trophies in the same season.
Ovechkin also becomes the first player in NHL history to win the Hart within three seasons after winning the Calder. The only other players in league history to win both awards are Bobby Orr, Bryan Trottier and Mario Lemieux.
Finally, Ovechkin was named to the league’s first All-Star team for the third time in as many seasons in the league.
It is the third straight first team All-Star selection for Ovechkin, who becomes the first player since Detroit Red Wings goaltender Terry Sawchuk in 1950-51, 1951-52 and 1952-53 to earn first-team honors in each of his first three full seasons in the league.
Ovechkin is the only Capitals forward ever to be named to one of the NHL’s postseason all-star teams and the first Capital to be named to the first team three times in his career. Ovechkin received 133 of a possible 134 first-team votes in the balloting by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
As the end of the 2007-08 season neared, the possibility of Ovechkin winning the Hart was a subject of widespread debate around the league. Many voters believed the Caps would need to make the playoffs for Ovechkin to have a chance at winning the Hart. The Caps made the playoffs, and Ovechkin won in a landslide.
He earned 128 of a possible 134 first-place votes and cruised to the Hart over runner-up Evgeni Malkin. Ovechkin joins teammate Sergei Fedorov as just the second Russian player ever to win the Hart. Fedorov won the Hart in 1994 with the Detroit Red Wings.
Ovechkin’s landslide Hart Trophy win was reminiscent of his Calder Trophy victory two years ago. He became the first Cap ever to win that trophy in 2006 when he garnered 124 of a possible 129 first-place votes.
“First year is always first year,” said Ovechkin, when asked to remember his feelings when he was a Calder nominee two years ago. “You’re a little bit shy. Right now I have more experience. I’m happy I’m here and Bruce [Boudreau] and Nick [Backstrom] are with me. We support each other and we are all on one team.”
It’s hard to fathom Ovechkin as being “shy.” He worked the media room with aplomb both before and after Thursday’s crowning NHL event, and did the same with the fans who lined up along the lengthy red carpet stretched on Yonge St. prior to the event.
One reporter wondered what Ovechkin might do to improve his game next season.
“Nobody’s perfect,” answered Ovechkin. “You’re not perfect, that’s for sure. Everybody has to improve all the time. I just want to continue what I’m doing, but play better and better and better.”
For all the talking Ovechkin did here on Thursday, he talked very little about himself. Whenever possible, he talked about the Capitals and the bright future that most see for his team.
“I think we have a pretty good team, a pretty talented team,” said Ovechkin. “Every year we move forward. Every year we get older and get more experience and move forward. Especially last year. We had so much experience and it will help us.
“We were [in] last [place], we won the division and we made the playoffs and [fell behind] 3-1 and we got this experience. Every year we move forward. I think next year will be much better and I can’t wait until the season starts.
“We love what we’re doing. We never give up. We believe in each other, we believe in our staff, we believe in our coach, we believe in everybody. When these situations happen, it’s good. Only when you believe do you win the Stanley Cup or anything else.”
It’s hard to imagine Ovechkin topping this season, but it’s also hard to imagine him not winning each of the four trophies he won this season again at some point or points further into his career. Ovechkin may not be perfect, but for three seasons, he has shown only one speed: full speed. Boudreau sees very little in the way of day-to-day change in Ovechkin’s demeanor, but the coach allows that his left wing must have the occasional bad day.
“He’s human,” said Boudreau. “He has a girlfriend, so he’s got to be angry sometime. He’s like everybody else. There are some days when you don’t feel like practicing. Some days you just don’t feel like getting up. But he’s there when it counts. When the puck drops, he is there. He wants to play and he wants to win all the time.”
Mostly Ovechkin wants to win the one thing that has eluded him in his short career, the one thing that had eluded the Caps in their history.
“I want to win everything,” declares Ovechkin. “Next time, the Stanley Cup.
“These awards and all awards are all about my teammates, coaches, training staff and everything, all Capitals organization. They gave me a great chance. They gave me trust to prove what I can do on the ice. And the fans are unbelievable. They support us and love us; it doesn’t matter what happens, we still have our fans.
“I think we have a great future. We have great young guys who play well. We had a great experience this year and I hope next year we improve more and more.”
The dynamic winger’s success extends to his off-ice ventures. The third and fourth of Ovechkin’s major awards came a night after he launched his own clothing line.
“I think I’m the happiest 22-year-old guy on the planet right now,” said Ovechkin. “I have a great family. Everything I have I made myself from working hard. And I know it’s improving. I’m happy right now with what I’m doing and how everything is going.”
On Friday, Ovechkin will receive the key to the city from District of Columbia mayor Adrian Fenty. After that, his summer will finally begin. Instead of hopping about the globe collecting hardware and awards, Ovechkin will finally have a chance to kick back and relax.
“One more day here and my summer will start right away,” Ovechkin declares. “I’ll go to Turkey for vacation, relax and forget about everything and I’ll be ready for next year.”
That’s when we’ll see what else Ovechkin has in store for us. Here’s another indication of his endless capacity to amaze: he finished ninth in balloting for the Lady Byng Trophy – awarded annually to the league’s most gentlemanly player. Ovechkin was named at the top of eight ballots in Lady Byng voting.
Could a Selke Trophy for the league’s top defensive forward be far behind?
“If I play more defensively, Bruce [will] kill me because my goal is to score goals,” Ovechkin quipped. “I play defensively how I can. It was good for me when I worked with Glen Hanlon. He taught me a lot. He said, ‘You’re good, but sometimes you have to work for the team; block shots and do some hard work.’”
Hard work has never been a problem for Ovechkin, but it’s finally beach time now.