There's no denying the fact Washington's Alex Ovechkin has become the ultimate crowd pleaser.
What's not to like? Those yellow laces, that crooked smile and his ability to leap into the air before crashing against the glass have consistently revved up the hometown faithful. For Ovechkin, playing in front of the home fans is always something special, as it is for all players in the league. This past season, a pair of Russians, including Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, proved to be stellar in front of the locals.
While Ovechkin led the league in total goals (65) and points (112) in 2007-08, Malkin finished as the NHL leader in points on home ice. Consider it just another stirring chapter in the rivalry between the two, which began as early as the 2004 NHL Entry Draft when Washington tabbed Ovechkin with the first overall pick before Pittsburgh followed with their selection of Malkin minutes later at No. 2.
Malkin registered a league-high 64 points in 41 games at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh last season. "Ovie" was a close second with 57 points in 41 games at the Verizon Center. Each has not only become a fan favourite, but bona-fide entertainer within the league.
Here's a look at the top point producers who enjoyed a little home cookin' in 2007-08: 1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh --
Malkin topped the league with 64 points, including 18 multiple-point games at Mellon Arena. He had a pair of four-point contests against interstate rival Philadelphia. On Feb. 10, he had a goal and three assists in a 4-3 triumph and on March 16, the native of Magnitogorsk had two goals and two assists in a 7-1 dusting of the Flyers. At no time was Malkin's scoring touch more valuable than when Sidney Crosby was sidelined for 28 games with a high ankle sprain he suffered on Jan. 18. Malkin notched 13 goals and 17 assists on home ice, while Crosby was on the mend en route to leading the Penguins to their first division title since 1998. 2. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington --
Ovechkin registered a pair of five-point contests and finished the season with 17 multiple-point games for 57 points at Verizon Center. The most memorable of those two big games in Washington occurred Jan. 31 when, after breaking his nose and needing stitches in his lip after getting hit with a puck, he returned to the ice and scored his fourth goal of the game with 1:26 left in overtime to bring the Caps a 5-4 victory over the Canadiens. His fourth career hat trick was his first ever at home.
Said Ovechkin after the game: "Today was a special day. I broke my nose, have stitches (and) score four goals. Everything (went) to my face." He broke his nose after being driven into the boards by Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon.
"We scored five and he was in on all five," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said following the triumph. "How can you say enough about him? He's an amazing person."
"Ovie" also had three goals and two assists on March 3 in a 10-2 victory over Boston. 3. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay:
Lecavalier was rock solid for a team in disarray. He gave fans at the St. Pete Times Forum reason to cheer, scoring 53 of his 92 total points on home ice to finish fourth in the league and third in the Eastern Conference. He registered the fifth three-goal game of his career on Nov. 14 in a 6-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound centre finished the year with 18 multiple-point games at home, despite the fact his team fashioned an 11-24-6 record in Tampa. 4. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa:
"Alfie" is the first of his three linemates to make the list of the league's top scorers on home ice. The team captain has become the steady two-way force who has guided the group at Scotiabank Place. The crafty right wing amassed 49 of his 89 points at home to finish seventh in the league and fourth among Eastern Conference performers in that category. Alfredsson had 14 multi-point games at home, including a five-point showing (two goals) in a 6-1 triumph over Montreal on Feb. 9. He'll be asked to continue his productivity this season alongside usual linemates Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza
. 5. Eric Staal, Carolina:
The 6-foot-4, 209-pound centre is the older brother of Marc (Rangers) and Jordan (Penguins), two others starring in the league. His youngest brother, Jared, is on the verge of cracking the Phoenix lineup. Eric Staal scored 49 of his 82 points on home ice at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., finishing in a tie with Alfredsson in the East while placing eighth overall. Carolina actually led the league with 140 goals scored at home, 22 of which were scored by Staal. He had 15 games with two-or-more points at home. 6. Derek Roy, Buffalo:
The Sabres finished fourth in the league last year with nearly 3.1 goals per game and Roy, a 5-foot-9, 186-pound two-way centre was a big reason. He finished ninth in the league and sixth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points on home ice, posting 16 multiple-point games at the HSBC Arena. When called upon to fill the void left by the departed Danny Briere (Philadelphia), Roy stepped up, registering a career-high 81 points. His production has increased in each of his last three seasons with the Sabres. 7. Dany Heatley, Ottawa:
There are few players in the league as consistent as the 27-year-old left wing. He's scored 80 or more points in five of the last six seasons, including the last four with the Sens. Heatley placed seventh on the Eastern Conference home ice scoring chart, collecting 47 points in 37 games last season. He was named MVP of the World Hockey Championship last May in Quebec City after posting 12 goals and 20 points in nine games for silver medal-winning Team Canada. Heatley posted 15 multi-point contests at Scotiabank Place. 8. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay:
So long as St. Louis is healthy, he'll likely be ranked among the league leaders in points, particularly at the St. Pete Times Forum, where he posted 45 points to place eighth in the East on the home-ice scoring chart last year. In fact, his 34 assists at home were tops in the conference. St. Louis, who had 14 multiple-point games at home, scored his lowest goal output (25) since the 2001-02 season when he had 16. With more depth at the forward position in Tampa, including the additions of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Radim Vrbata, St. Louis will be the beneficiary of more open ice to work his magic. 9. Jason Spezza, Ottawa:
If healthy -- Spezza missed six games to injury last season -- there's a good chance the top-line centre could lead the Eastern Conference in this category in 2008-09. He finished 10th in the East and 19th in the league on home ice in 2007-08 with 43 points in 36 games. On Feb. 9, Spezza posted a career-high six points at Scotiabank Place, including his first three-goal game, in a 6-1 victory over the Canadiens. He connected for two or more points in 13 home games.10. Mike Richards, Philadelphia:
The Wachovia Center was extremely kind to the 23-year-old centre, who scored 42 of his 75 points on home ice, including 29 assists. Richards has transformed himself into the prototypical Philadelphia Flyer. He was second on the team in takeaways (46), hits (110) and plus-minus (plus-14), fourth in penalty minutes (76) and No. 11 in blocked shots (46). He led the team with career-highs in points (75) and assists (47) and is coach John Stevens’ go-to forward in penalty-killing situations. He also finished tied for third in the league with five shorthanded goals.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer