Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin, the biggest individual story of the 2007-2008 season, also was the star of Thursday night's National Hockey League Awards Show at the Elgin Theater.
Ovechkin, who scored a League-high 65 goals and 112 points to claim both the Art Ross
and Rocket Richard trophies, kicked off Thursday's show by winning the Lester B. Pearson Award as the League MVP as voted by the players.
After being presented his Ross and Richard trophies midway through the show, he closed the night by claiming the Hart Trophy as MVP as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. He beat out Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin
and Calgary's Jarome Iginla
As usual, "AO" made his presence known in his own unique way.
Wearing a bright red vest and ascot to accent his black tux, Ovechkin accepted the Pearson from former winner Martin St. Louis
of the Tampa Bay Lightning
. Within seconds, he had the Elgin Theater crowd laughing as he fumbled with his speech.
"I'm nervous. Sorry," he said.
Then he spoke to the Capital fans congregating at the Verizon Center to watch the Awards Show.
"Hi guys!" he said, waving playfully to the camera.
Finally, he turned serious, acknowledging how important the Pearson Award is to him.
"It's a big award because the players speak who is best player in NHL," he said. "I'm very happy. Thank you very much."
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau
, who brought the best out of Ovechkin after taking over in late November — Ovechkin scored 51 goals in the 61 regular-season games Boudreau coached — said Ovechkin's style is a byproduct of the player's zest for life.
"He speaks from the heart, just like the way he plays," said Boudreau, who went on to beat out Detroit's Mike Babcock and Montreal's Guy Carbonneau for the Jack Adams award as the League's best coach. "He plays from the heart, and his passion shows through on the ice; his passion shows through when he is talking to reporters and his passion will show through tonight, hopefully, when he accepts a couple of awards.
"It's all genuine, and that is what makes him the person that he is. There's nothing contrived. It'll just come out."
But Ovechkin was the big winner Thursday night not because of his winsome personality, but because of his dominance on the ice, where he was virtually impossible to stop.
Iginla, a 50-goal scorer in his own right, found no shame in losing out to No. 8 from the Capitals.
"He's had that kind of year – 65 goals, leading scorer in the League and the team made the playoffs," Iginla said. "They turned it around pretty amazingly, and everybody knew what a huge part he was of that. He's very deserving and he is fun to watch, too — I mean 65 is an awesome number."
Emotion was the overriding theme of the night, which was dominated by Russians, the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and Ovechkin's Capitals.
Russian forward Pavel Datsyuk, a key to Detroit's championship run, took home a pair of trophies, winning his first Frank J. Selke Trophy as the League’s best forward and his third straight Lady Byng Memorial Award as the League's most gentlemanly player.
Datsyuk, who beat out New Jersey’s John Madden and Detroit teammate Henrik Zetterberg — the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Playoff MVP — to take the Selke, was just as engaging as Ovechkin in accepting the Selke.
"I wrote speech longer, but my English short," Datsyuk said in his acceptance speech.
Later, he was even funnier in his comments to the media when asked how he has spent the week since winning the Stanley Cup.
"I tried to ask my wife, because I don't remember," he said. "I remember how I came into party, but I don't remember how I got home in my bed. I'm being honest."
A few other Red Wings enjoyed big nights, exactly one week after the club raised its fourth Stanley Cup in the past 11 seasons.
Defenseman and team captain Nicklas Lidstrom won his sixth Norris Trophy in the past seven years in a landslide vote, beating second-place Dion Phaneuf of Calgary by 752 points. He is one of only three defensemen in NHL history to win as many as six Norris trophies. Boston's Bobby Orr won eight and Doug Harvey won seven, six with the Montreal Canadiens and one with the New York Rangers.
"It never gets old, and it's something I never take for granted, either," Lidstrom said.
Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek, who announced his retirement this week, were awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goalies on the team that allowed the fewest goals (184) in the NHL this season.
Former Red Wing star Gordie Howe, a Hall of Famer, was also honored with the first NHL Lifetime Achievement Award by Commissioner Gary Bettman. During an unprecedented 26-season NHL career which began in 1946 and ended in 1980, Howe played in a record 1,767 games, winning six Hart Trophies, six scoring titles and four Stanley Cups. He was a 21-time NHL All-Star. He retired at the age of 52 with League-record totals of 801 goals and 1,850 points.
There were other familiar faces on the stage at the Elgin Theater, as well.
New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur won his fourth Vezina Trophy in the past five seasons, beating out San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov by a mere seven points in voting by the League’s general managers.
Chicago's Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, set a high bar to reach for Steven Stamkos, the consensus No. 1 pick in next week's 2008 NHL Entry Draft, by completing a brilliant rookie season and winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the League’s best rookie. He topped Washington rookie center Nicklas Backstrom by 206 points.
Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier, last year's Rocket Richard Trophy winner, won the King Clancy Award for his humanitarian work.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey," was given to Toronto's Jason Blake, who was diagnosed before the season started with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare but treatable form of cancer. Despite the diagnosis, Blake played in all 82 games this season — one of three Toronto players to so.
But, there was no question when the night was done that the 2008 Awards Show was all about Ovechkin, who took home four major awards, including both MVP honors.
"I want to win everything," Ovechkin said at the end of the night, surrounded by his four pieces of hardware. "Maybe next year a Stanley Cup?"