|Ovechkin collects trophies, sets sights on Cup|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 28 May 2008 13:44|
The Washington Capitals star, the odds-on favorite to be the NHL MVP, was honored Wednesday at the Stanley Cup finals for having the most goals and points during the regular season.
Ovechkin recorded 65 goals and 112 points, joining Jarome Iginla in 2002 as the only players to win the Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies in the same season. He admired the hardware after accepting it at a luncheon and then did what any 22-year-old hockey fan would, he saved the moment on his phone.
That was, of course, after he used it to send a text message just before taking questions at the podium from reporters.
He likely will add the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP to his collection next month, and has his sights set on being back to the finals in a much greater capacity.
``It was a good year, but it was not my best year,'' Ovechkin said of his third NHL season. ``With the Stanley Cup, I say it's my best year. I'm happy I take this cup, but the biggest cup is not in my hands. Soon, probably.''
It was then that Ovechkin flashed a wide grin. He has every right to think that it won't take him long to win a championship. The Capitals hovered near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings when a coaching change and his exquisite season vaulted them to the Southeast Division title.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby entered the NHL the same season as Ovechkin and reached the Stanley Cup finals a year after winning the MVP award. Don't think Ovechkin hasn't noticed his rival's path.
Crosby got the Penguins into the playoffs last year and they were eliminated in the first round by Ottawa. The Capitals were knocked out this year by Philadelphia, also in the first round.
``Well, I'm a little jealous, but he's a great player,'' he said. ``They have a great team. When he was first in the playoffs, he lost in the first round 4-1. Right now, he is in the playoffs final. I hope next year will be the same, and we'll be on the same page.''
SYDOR'S IN: Darryl Sydor, a Stanley Cup winner with Dallas (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004), has done nothing but watch these playoffs. Usually, by himself.
It was an uncomfortable feeling for one of the Pittsburgh Penguins' most accomplished players and their only defenseman with a Stanley Cup ring. But Sydor understood the team was winning and coach Michel Therrien didn't want to break up a winning combination.
But Therrien sought to make changes following the Penguins' two Stanley Cup finals losses in Detroit, and Sydor finally got his chance. After not playing since March 30, Sydor was on the playing roster for Game 3 on Wednesday night, while disappointed rookie Kris Letang was scratched. Letang was a minus-2 in the two games in Detroit after being a plus-6 in the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia.
``I've always been in game mode, I watch the games like I'm playing the games,'' Sydor said. ``I watch by myself and I kind of get a little excited. At the end of the day, I know I can still play this game and play it at a high level and I have an opportunity to prove it.''
Team captain Sidney Crosby said his fellow players respect the 36-year-old Sydor and the way he plays with intensity and poise. Sydor is a Penguins alternate captain.
``He's a big leader for our team, especially in big games like this,'' Crosby said. ``He brings a sense of calm to our room.''
Therrien said he made the change because Sydor is a proven player and is capable of stepping into the lineup seamlessly despite his long layoff. During the season, Sydor most often was paired with Ryan Whitney.
NO CHANGES: Penguins star Sidney Crosby didn't score in the two games in Detroit, and he said it may have been because he gave too much credit to the Red Wings.
Reflecting on the two games, Crosby said he wouldn't do much differently himself despite the Penguins' losses by a combined 7-0.
``I wouldn't change a whole lot,'' Crosby said. ``They pressure a lot, and sometimes you get caught thinking you have less time than you do. When you have the opportunity to make plays, you need to focus on reading the play and reacting right.''
NO FUNNY BOUNCES: Unlike the Pittsburgh Penguins, who discovered that the end boards were particularly lively at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings didn't pick up any funky quirks during their first practice at Mellon Arena.
The Red Wings took the ice Wednesday for their morning skate in advance of that night's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals and gave it a test spin. Detroit didn't face the Penguins during the regular season and hadn't played a game in Pittsburgh that counted since a 2-0 win on Oct. 7, 2006.
Detroit earned a 5-2 preseason victory at Mellon last September.
``You have to get used to it,'' said Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who played in that game. ``Whether pucks bounce or are coming out hard or kind of stick around the boards, it's something you get a feel of. We got a little bit of a feel of it today, but once the game starts you get can realize more what the puck is doing out there.''
If the bounces are consistent and true, that could provide another advantage to the Red Wings, who outscored the Penguins 7-0 at home in the first two games of the series.
``The goalie can come out and help you,'' Lidstrom said. ``If he's not sure, he is going to stay in the net. But if he can come out and play the puck or set it up for you, that's going to help the defense a lot.''
AP Sports Writer Alan Robinson contributed to this report.