Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin belongs in Hart Trophy conversation

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images /

It’s baffling that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin isn’t getting more love in the Hart Trophy conversation

Each year, the Hart Trophy goes to the player deemed to be most valuable to his team. So far, Nathan MacKinnon is starting to distance himself from everyone else. Whether or not the Colorado Avalanche make the postseason *shouldn’t* matter one bit (but sadly it probably will). One name that you don’t see too much in the Hart Trophy discussion is Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.

As is tradition, Ovi is leading the NHL in goal scoring with, considering his age and how last season went for him, arguably one of his most impressive offensive seasons. Entering March 13, Ovechkin has 42 goals, one ahead of his biggest fan Patrik Laine.

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The Capitals have 206 goals this season (plus three shootout goals that aren’t actually goals). Ovechkin has a shade over 20 percent of them. In addition, The Great Eight has 32 assists, which means he’s directly been involved in 74 goals for (or 36 percent).

What might be most impressive is the way Ovechkin is doing it. Usually, he’s seen as a guy who does a lot of his damage on the power play. With 13 goals, Ovechkin’s still one of the biggest threats in the NHL with an extra man on the ice. But this season, Alex leads the league in even strength goal scoring (29 goals as of March 13).

The Capitals have scored 137 even strength goals, ninth in the NHL. If you took away Ovechkin’s 29 goals at even strength, they’d fall all the way down to 30th. So, in short, the Capitals have been one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL without Ovi at even strength. Which, by the way, is where a majority of each game is played.

So Why Isn’t He Getting More Support?

Here’s my theory on this, coming from a Capitals fan. Ovechkin has been such a great player for such a long time. Sustained excellence is hard to come by. It’s a blessing and a curse. The curse part of it? People expect nothing short of excellence from you.

I think Ovechkin might be suffering a bit from his own accolades here. Fans are used to him scoring 40 goals. If any other player was having the kind of season Ovechkin’s having, they’d be in the Hart Trophy conversation. This can be said with confidence because many people have Taylor Hall somewhere in their top three (or at least top five).

Now, I’m not saying Hall shouldn’t be a Hart Trophy contender. He absolutely should be and it’ll be a disgrace if he’s not somewhere in the top five, regardless of how this season ends for the New Jersey Devils.

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But maybe this is the highest possible compliment that can be paid to Ovechkin. He’s been so great for so long, his greatness no longer stands out. If so, that’s a shame because Ovechkin’s having one of his finest seasons as an NHLer.