|Caps' Ovechkin wins NHL MVP, now seeks the Cup|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 12 June 2008 15:16|
Ovechkin capped off a special season Thursday night by capturing the NHL's two most prestigious individual awards. He won the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the players' choice for the most outstanding player.
``I think I'm the happiest 22-year-old guy on the planet,'' Ovechkin said.
The trophy haul already included the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer (65) and the Art Ross Trophy as the top point-getter (112).
All that is missing for the 22-year-old Ovechkin is the Stanley Cup.
``Next year I think we will be much better, and I can't wait to see it start,'' he said. ``We love what we're doing. We never give up, we believe in each other, we believe in the coach, we believe in everybody.
``Only when you believe do you win the Stanley Cup.''
Ovechkin was the first player to score 60 goals since Mario Lemieux in 1996. He joined Sergei Fedorov (1994) as the only Russian-born players to win the Hart and the Pearson.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, hired during the season after Washington's woeful start, earned the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top bench boss.
The only damper in the nation's capital came when Washington's Nicklas Backstrom was edged by Chicago's Patrick Kane for rookie of the year.
Boudreau, who led the Capitals to the Southeast Division title, beat Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and Guy Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens.
The 53-year-old Boudreau took over a team that was last in the Eastern Conference and led them to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. The Capitals let Glen Hanlon go after the team got off to its slowest start in 26 years and hired Boudreau on an interim basis.
Washington went 37-17-7 after Boudreau was hired on Nov. 22.
``A year ago I would have never believed this,'' he said.
Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins were the other finalists for both the Hart and Pearson. But the night, and the year, belonged to Ovechkin.
``Sixty-five goals, leading scorer in the league, and their team made the playoffs,'' Iginla said. ``They turned it around pretty amazingly and everyone knows what a huge part of that he was.
``He's very deserving. It was fun to watch him, too.''
Kane, who led rookies with 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 82 games, is the first Blackhawks player to win the Calder since goalie Ed Belfour in 1990-91. He also edged Chicago linemate Jonathan Toews for the award.
Toews led rookies with 24 goals despite missing more than a month with a knee injury. Backstrom was second in rookie scoring with 69 points (14-55) in 82 games.
A smiling Kane revealed he made a bet with Toews just before the awards show.
``It was $500 for the winner. I'll take it,'' he said.
While Kane got his first taste of the NHL awards, it was all very familiar for Nicklas Lidstrom. The captain of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings captured his sixth Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, moving him two behind Bobby Orr's eight and one behind Doug Harvey's seven.
``I never take this for granted,'' Lidstrom said, ``but it really feels special coming here after winning the Cup.''
Lidstrom, 38, led defenseman in scoring with 70 points (10-60) in 76 games and led his position with a plus-40 rating. He beat Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames for the award.
Another Wings great was also honored as Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, was given the inaugural lifetime achievement award by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
``The game is in great hands, not good hands, but great hands,'' Howe said.
The Wings joined the Capitals in owning the ceremony. Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk won the Lady Byng Trophy as the league's most gentlemanly player and the Selke Trophy as top defensive forward. He's the first player in 73 years to win the Lady Byng three seasons in a row but said the Selke meant more, testimony to his two-way game.
Martin Brodeur, meanwhile, refuses to give up the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goaltender. The New Jersey Devils stalwart won the award for the fourth time in five seasons, edging Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
``I was really happy with the way I played,'' said Brodeur. ``(My health) has been great in the last four or five years. I don't know if it was the rest during the lockout or what, but I feel great.''
His four Vezinas are second only to the six won by recently retired Dominik Hasek since the award started being voted on by the NHL's 30 general managers in 1982.
An emotional Jason Blake won the Bill Masterton Trophy as the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs winger was diagnosed with leukemia just before the start of the regular season but never missed a game.
``I've been so lucky in life to play in the NHL, have three beautiful kids and be married to a wonderful woman,'' he said. ``I get to play the game I love at the highest level and I get to continue doing it as long as some team wants me.''
Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning won the King Clancy Trophy given to the player who shows leadership on and off the ice and contributes to his community. Lecavalier made a $3-million pledge to construct a pediatric cancer and blood disorders center at the All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., in October.