Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten Stories of 2009 -- Number 6: The Repeat

And now, the number 6 story of 2009…

Number 6: The Repeat

In the history of the National Hockey League 51 different players have been named winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy as league most valuable player. Of that number, 17 have won the award on more than one occasion. Of that number, 11 have been a repeat winner at least once in their careers. And of that number, one player is still active.

Alex Ovechkin.

In NHL history 22 players have won the Lester Pearson Award as outstanding player. Of that number, nine have won the award more than once. Of that number, six have been repeat winners at least once in their career. And of that number, one player is still active.

Alex Ovechkin.

In the history of the NHL, nine different players have won the Maurice Richard Trophy that is awarded to the top goal scorer in the league. Of that number, three have won it more than once. Of that number, two have been repeat winners. And of that number, one is still active.

Alex Ovechkin.

In NHL history, 16 forwards have been named a first team NHL all star at least four times. Only one of these players is active and is the only player in the history of the league to have been named to the first team in each of his first four seasons.

Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin stands alone at the top of his sport. You could make an argument for a Sidney Crosby, an Evgeni Malkin, a Nicklas Lidstrom, a Pavel Datsyuk, a Jarome Iginla, or a Joe Thornton eclipsing Ovechkin as a player. You could, but it would not be convincing. Let’s look at these players in 2009 (you’re free to think there should be others on this list, but it is a representative group of elite players from 2009):

Ovechkin, despite having played fewer games than anyone on this list, has more goals, points, game-winning goals (having played in fewer games than Evgeni Malkin), and more power play goals than anyone on this list. Yes, you are free to think that other measures should be in here (even you stat geeks), but these are a simple enough sampling to tell a story.

Ovechkin had some other noteworthy accomplishments in 2009:

-- 14 multi-goal games
-- 34 multi-point games
-- two hat tricks
-- two ten-game points streaks (coming as part of a 29 games in 31 points run)
-- two three-game goal scoring streaks during the 2009 playoffs
-- 11 goals in his last 11 games in the playoffs, including seven in the seven game series against Pittsburgh
-- 11-10-21 in 14 playoff games, which still left him fifth in playoff scoring, despite not playing in the final two rounds (he was plus-10, to boot, sixth in the league for the playoffs)

Even a suspension didn’t slow him down (and it inspired almost as talk about an NHL player in the regular season as there was talk about a certain golfer’s infidelity….ok, it didn’t). Since taking a couple of games off for a knee-on-knee hit on Carolina’s Tim Gleason, Ovechkin is 8-11-19, plus-6, with four power play goals (he had four all season before the suspension), and a game-winner. It just adds to the story Ovechkin authored this year.

And that story is that at this point in his career, having consistently produced at an elite level, repeating multiple times in individual awards, Ovechkin is the most prolific player of his era. He is the NHL’s only equivalent of a rock star, creating a buzz in every city he visits. That he would repeat in three major awards this year – Hart, Pearson, Richard – and be named for the fourth consecutive time to the NHL first all star team, Alex Ovechkin is – again – a top story in 2009.

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