Alexander a great bet for MVP

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

We all know Alexander is great.

Those 54 goals he has scored so far this sesaon -- a good number of them of the highlight-reel variety -- give a pretty strong hint of that and might even confirm the declaration.

But is Alexander Ovechkin the best? Meaning, is the Washington Capitals' winger the most valuable player in the NHL this season?

For the moment, the answer is "yes." And this is a good moment to be considered the leading contender for the Hart Trophy, with the regular season drawing to a close and the ballots being put in the voter's hands.

It has been a curious season with respect to the MVP race and debate. At various times there have been a half-dozen or so players who were either dominating, or at least playing well enough to earn serious consideration, including Ovechkin earlier.

At one point, it was Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier earning the rave notices, but the concern then was could a star on a non-playoff team really be the winner? Others mentioned along the way have included the Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla and, just before him being hurt, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby. Other notables have included Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and, of late, New Jersey Devils brick wall Martin Brodeur.

In the absence of Crosby, understudy Evgeni Malkin was nothing short of brilliant, while at various times Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has been mentioned and the Detroit Red Wings made a case for defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, the point of his value being driven home during his absence over the past few weeks with a concussion and sprained knee.

And then there is Ovechkin, who has six goals in the past three games and is now staring down a potential 60-goal season. If you are wondering, the most recent player to score 60 or more goals in a season was Mario Lemieux a dozen years ago. Lemieux finished with 69, won the scoring title with 161 points and won the Hart Trophy, the last of three in his career. Jaromir Jagr had 62 goals that same season.

Now, Ovechkin isn't going to enter the Lemieux stratosphere for points, the times and teams are different. He does, however, have a decent chance of winning the scoring title with Malkin in close pursuit and will also win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals.

Now, you can make the argument that, what if the Washington Capitals, who entered last night's games two points behind the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers, don't make the playoffs, does Ovechkin still deserve to win? The answer would be "yes." Put simply, would the Capitals be anywhere near a playoff spot without him? That answer would be "no."

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It could be safely argued, as well, that the Penguins would be lost without the heroics of Malkin, and either would be a good choice. Where would the Flames be without Iginla? For a while, it seemed, if he didn't score the Flames didn't have a chance of winning. The goaltenders deserve strong consideration, too, although Luongo and the Canucks had an average stretch which would affect his status. But Brodeur has been, well, vintage Brodeur, appearing in 62 games, with 36 victories and a 2.15 goals-against average.

The two guys with better averages both play in Detroit, but both have also played half as many games as Brodeur. Which leads us to another Hart candidate who hasn't received much notice. What about San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov? He has appeared in the most games (64). He has the most wins (37) and sixth best goals-against average (2.20). His work has been somewhat overshadowed by the consistent feeling that the Sharks have underachieved this season, but before last night they had won seven in a row and were sitting third overall in the league in points.

All good players, all good seasons. But right now the winner is Ovechkin, who previously has had 52- and 46-goal seasons and should hit the big 60, which would tie the club record held by Dennis Maruk. Nine of those goals, by the way, are game winners. In that category, he is tied for the league lead with Iginla.

In large part, it has been Ovechkin who has given the Capitals playoff hopes. At least, he along with coach Bruce Boudreau, who allows him to play his game, which is emotional and exciting, hard hitting and high octane. Ovechkin is the complete offensive package and barring a major meltdown over the stretch drive, is also the MVP this season.


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