Alex Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin was named Hart Trophy winner for the third time in his...

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin was named Hart Trophy winner for the third time in his career Saturday night. (REUTERS)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:26 AM ET

TORONTO - In one of the best playoffs the NHL has produced in years, the league’s scrambled awards show was a painful reminder of the senseless lockout and the 48-game season foisted on its fans.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Hockey Night In Canada and NBC sped through the major trophy winners Saturday night like a sequel to Fast and Furious, anxious to get back to the compelling Bruins-Hawks Stanley Cup final. Most award winners were known anyway, either leaked a few days ago or deduced by which finalists were spotted around Chicago hotel lobbies the past few days.

Just like 1995, when the lockout limited the sked to 48 and the conferences didn’t play each other, there were some tough calls for voters from the Professional Hockey Writers Association. There were close races, but no underserving winners and all players will be judged on a full 82 games in 2013-14 with the added ripple of realignment.

This compressed season was further complicated at the ballot box when some proven names struggled or were hurt. Sidney Crosby staked himself to a big lead in points but then broke his jaw. It took Alex Ovechkin until the second half to get cooking. Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos were 1-2 in scoring, but Tampa Bay missed the playoffs.

It all skewered the voting for two of the biggest trophys, the Hart and Ted Lindsay. After writers and players agreed on Evgeni Malkin last year for MVP, the scribes embraced Ovie for the Hart, with four more first-place votes than Crosby. Certainly, Ovechkin brought his team the longest way, though third-place John Tavares made a valiant effort with the Islanders.

Amid fears he and new coach Adam Oates were on a collision course, Ovechkin broke loose for 23 goals in his last 23 games and put his team in the playoffs. Ovechkin’s taped acceptance speech touched upon the battle of wills with his handlers.

“The coaching staff put me on the right wing. It was kind of hard ... but we made it.”

Crosby gets plenty of abuse around the league, physically and verbally, but enough peers recognized how well his season would’ve finished if he’d been healthy. He missed 12 games, but still was second to St. Louis with 41 assists. We’ll presume it was a close win over Ovechkin and St Louis, as the NHLPA does not publish its internal suffrage.

It was one of the closest MVP races in years, certainly in terms of actual votes, harkening to Jose Theodore’s win over Jarome Iginla in 2002. In the ’95 decision, with so little game data to go on, Eric Lindros and Jaromir Jagr tied in regular season points, Jagr won the Art Ross on more goals, but Lindros won the two MVP prizes on fewer games.

Saturday’s other squeeze play saw P.K. Subban of the Canadiens become its first Norris Trophy winner since Chris Chelios, nipping Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild by one first-place and two second-place votes. Kris Letang of the Penguins was third, while Zdeno Chara, paying for a poor finish in the regular season by he and the Bruins, was fifth.

The 21st century expansion teams did well at the awards table. Josh Harding’s Masterton Trophy on Friday was followed by Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets getting the league general managers’ collective nod for the Vezina, while Jonathan Huberdeau had more ice than runner-up Brendan Gallagher of the Habs to became the first ever rookie of the year for the Florida Panthers.

The Philadelphia Flyers traded their former 28-game winner Bobrovsky to the Jackets a year ago, had to use four different goalies this year, including the enigmatic Ilya Bryzgalov and missed the playoffs. But the goalie gold might have gone to Ottawa’s Craig Anderson had he a full season to come back from injury and maintain something close to his league-leading .941 save percentage.

It matters little, as 2013’s winners won’t be remembered for very long.


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