Despite the fact that the Washington Capitals (53-15-12) have already clinched the #1 seed in the entire NHL playoffs (they did that last Sunday), Friday night’s tilt against the Atlanta Thrashers at the Verizon Center will have several things still worth watching.
The Caps are going to celebrate their regular season title by having a brief pregame on-ice ceremony unveiling the Presidents’ Trophy – given each year to the team with the best record in the NHL – before the game then share it with their fans at Verizon Center and Kettler Capitals Iceplex the next two days.
The Presidents’ Trophy will be on display throughout Friday’s game on the concourse between sections 107 and 108 and during Sunday’s game against Boston behind section 119. The trophy will also make a trip out to Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., on Saturday for the Capitals’ 11 a.m. practice. The trophy will be on display at Kettler Capitals Iceplex from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Fans will be able to take photographs of the trophy while it is on display free of charge at either Kettler Capitals Iceplex or Verizon Center.
Now back to Friday’s game. Alexander Ovechkin comes into the contest with 48 goals and 58 assists and he is battling Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard Trohy (most goals) and Henrik Sedin for the Art Ross Trophy (most Points). In addition, both Ovie and defenseman Mike Green (leads the NHL in points by defenseman) have a chance to strengthen their MVP and Norris Trophy cases, respectively. Courtesy of the Caps super PR department here are some stats to make the case for both players:
THE CASE FOR HART: Alex Ovechkin
His Best Year Yet
- The two-time MVP leads the league in points per game (1.51) and goals per game (0.69)
- His points-per-game average is the best of his career (improved from 1.39 last year)
- He is tied for first in the NHL in goals and trails in the scoring race by one point despite missing 10 games
- He leads all forwards with a career-best +43 and leads the league with 360 shots on goal
- His goals-per-game improves significantly (0.94) against the teams in the top third of the league
- He leads the league with 80 points in non-division games; his points per game is better outside the Southeast (1.54) than it is in it (1.44)
- Similarly, he leads the league with 40 goals in non-division games and has 0.77 goals per game outside the Southeast (0.44 in it)
Ovi the Leader
- Leads the league’s best team; the Caps have nine more points than the second-best team and 19 more than the second-place team in the Eastern Conference
- The Capitals are 29-4-6 since he was named captain Jan. 5, which would project to a 135-point pace in a season
The Complete Player
- His +43 is +9 better than any other forward and includes a league-best +36 rating outside of his division
- Has only been on the ice for 42 even-strength goals against – that’s 10 fewer than any of the other top 10 scorers in the league and 43% fewer than he was on ice for last season
- His +43 is 54% better than his previous career high
- He is tied for 27th in hits with 183; none of the other top 30 players in hits are among the top 75 scorers in the league
THE CASE FOR NORRIS: Mike Green
His Best Year Yet
- He has career highs in points (74), assists (55) and plus/minus (+35)
- He leads all defensemen in goals (19), assists, points, power-play goals (10), power-play points (35), home points (40), road points (34) and points outside the division (54)
- He is second only to defense partner Jeff Schultz in plus/minus among NHL defensemen
- Has four more goals and eight more points than any other defenseman; the only defenseman averaging more than a point per game
- His +33 rating outside the Southeast Division is the best of any defenseman outside his division
- He is +35 after entering the season with a +12 career rating
- His plus/minus is 59% better than the second-best player among the top 10 scoring defensemen (Lidstrom)
- He has his fewest penalty minutes (54) since his rookie year
An Historic Impact
- He is only the third active defenseman with a 70-point season (Lidstrom, Chelios)
- Ranks third in Caps history in points in a season by a defenseman, trailing only Larry Murphy and Kevin Hatcher, and the best since 1992-93
- Has 24 more goals and 26 more points than any other defenseman in the last three seasons
- The seventh player with back-to-back 70-point seasons before he turned 25 (the other six are in the Hall of Fame)
Ovechkin is likely battling Sedin, Crosby, and perhaps goalies Ryan Miller (Sabres) and Ilya Bryzgalov (Coyotes) for the Hart Trophy. Personally, I don’t see how you can vote for Crosby, he has fewer points in more games and the Penguins are around 20 points behind Washington in the standings? Can you say “Case Closed.” Some, such as ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun, think that Ovie shouldn’t win his third straight MVP because Washington was 7-2-1 without him in the lineup. But if you take a look at those 10 games, four of those wins came against one of the weaker teams in the league in Florida while the two losses were to the Devils in regulation. However, when the Great #8 played against New Jersey the Caps went 1-0-1, only losing in a shootout.
Yes, the Caps are still pretty good without Ovechkin in the lineup, but they aren’t the best team in the league. The other stat I really like from above is the 29-4-6 record since he took over as team captain. Clearly the switch has made an impact on the team and when I asked Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau about the team’s record with Ovehckin as captain today on an NHL conference call the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winner said, “I haven’t coached the team any differently.” Gabby also pointed out that “[Ovechkin] is still the same guy, he hasn’t changed at all except for maybe being a little gun shy due to the suspensions.” Washington did get healthier in January but appointing Alexander the Great as team captain seemed to have raised the intensity level of every player on the club and they have kept winning despite some injuries in March and early April.
As for Green, I find it mind boggling that he is not running away with the Norris. It seems the only reason is because some guys named Yzerman and Armstrong, who have spent the vast majority of their management careers watching Western Conference teams, didn’t pick #52 for the Canadian Olympic team. Others point to #52’s disappointing 2009 post season but they seem to forget the guy played with an illness and a separated shoulder. His two main competitors appear to be Duncan Keith of Chicago and Drew Doughty of Los Angeles, and both played for the Gold Medal winning Team Canada in the Olympics. Keith, who gets the benefit of being paired with Brent Seabrook on a nightly basis, has had a super year but his numbers, in more games, are still below #52’s. Doughty, who is just in his second year in the NHL, has been really good but he is 17 points behind Green and he is +19 while the man Boudreau calls “the One Man Breakout” is +35.
I can certainly be accused of being biased, and I admit that, but even still the numbers and facts strongly support both Ovechkin and Green.
By the way, there are some other neat things to possibly look forward to on Friday. Caps super Swede center, Nicklas Backstrom, has 31 goals and 67 assists and needs just two points to hit the century mark. In addition, Alexander Semin is sitting on 39 goals, a career high for Sasha, but it would be great to see him hit 40. Goalie Jose Theodore is also one victory away from #30 for the season. Theodore has been nominated for the Masterton Trophy.
So all in all, Friday’s contest may appear to be meaningless on paper, but there is a nice little celebration that will take place pre-game and then we can all sit back and hopefully see some Capitals players reach some individual milestones. It should be a fun night.