[The NHL awards ceremony is still a few months off, but Alex Ovechkin has already started accumulating hardware. For the fourth year in a row, he has been selected as the most valuable Russian player in the NHL, as voted on by his fellow Russian NHL players. Sovietsky Sport newspaper is the creator and sponsor of the annual award, and they recently telephoned Alex to tell him the good news.]
"A VALUABLE PRIZE FOR MY DISPLAY"
Alexander, we have a tradition here at Sovietsky Sport-every April we call you to congratulate you on winning the Kharlamov trophy.
"Are you kidding? Have I really won it again?" said Ovechkin, repeating his exact words from a year ago.
No joke! And this time we even asked the NHL players to justify their choice. We asked them why Alexander the Great won again and the all threw up their hands and said "Well he's the best, simply the best!" Maybe it's time to change the name to the Kharlamov-Ovechkin trophy?
"I think you're exaggerating just a bit! But it's really nice to for you to say that. It's awesome that the guys voted for me. They've really given me an honor."
Are you tired yet of winning the Kharlamov Trophy?
"I'll never get tired of it! I'm going to put it in my display case in my house. As usual, I'm going to put it in a prominent position-in line with the others, since I have four of them now!"
What are your most valuable showpieces?
"The trophies I've won in the NHL and the gold medal from the World Championship."
You are the only player in the NHL who made 50 goals and 50 assists this season.
"This shows, once again, that Washington is a first class team! I'm not saying that the guys sometimes make plays especially for me, but rather that with these guys I'm able to demonstrate the hockey that I learned in Russia. I can make assists and I can take advantage of the power play. On the man advantage our team is almost first in the league."
The critics say that if you, Semin and Backstrom were taken out of Washington, the team wouldn't be able to achieve anything.
"Who says that? I'd respond back with the question of why they forget about Mike Green? I'm convinced he's going to win the Norris Trophy this year for best defenseman of the league. This guy's made 31 goals. What else is there to say about that?"
"Those who think Washington is a single line team are seriously delusional."
We're just going to throw this out on the table-in the Montreal Gazette they said that it would be ideal if the Canadians came up against Washington in the playoffs. They would nullify your troika and show that you have no defense or goaltending.
"I love it when they talk like that! Saying that our team is nothing. It'll just make us even more vicious. You yourself know how dangerous it is to underestimate your opponent during the playoffs. To be honest, this is stupidity to call Jose Theodore a nothing goaltender."
You've basically got a strained relationship with Montreal. If you recall, their former coach Guy Carbonneau said it was a fluke that Washington beat them.
"Was it a fluke that we won first place in the division and got into the playoffs? You know the old saying-- ‘a drowning man grasps at straws'."
"THE STANLEY CUP IS A TEST OF MANHOOD"
How do you feel going into the playoffs?
"I can't wait for it! The Stanley Cup is everything in the NHL, and the playoffs are a test-are you or are you not a man. What are you capable of?"
What lessons did you learn from last year's playoffs? You played against Philadelphia in the first round.
"You have to take fewer penalties and make better use of scoring opportunities."
Have you already started your playoff beard?
"I've shaved today, but from this moment on until the end of the Stanley Cup I promise to not hold a razor in my hand!"
Do you think Washington can make it to the final round of the playoffs?
"This is something that you can't predict. Everybody has the same chances. We have a slight advantage in having home ice, but everything depends on luck and team attitude."
Who is the most dangerous team in your conference? Semin thinks it is Philadelphia.
"WE are the most dangerous team. If we can show our game and play our best, nobody can stop us."
"I COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT CRITICISM"
You are always the center of public attention. How are you able to relax in the middle of all this?
"I don't pay any attention to all that. I just play hockey."
Do you not read the articles that criticize you?
"I read them, but I couldn't care less about them. I'm a level-headed guy."
Why did ESPN put a camera in your car? Total Ovechkin immersion?
"They were just doing a story. They wanted me to show them Russian style driving."
Did the camera operator not want to get back in after taking a spin in your Mercedes?
"It was the other way around-he said that he wanted Ovechkin to drive him everywhere now."
What's that noise we keep hearing in the background?
"Oh, Semin and I are sitting in the hotel right now. I'm playing on the computer and he's watching some Russian television series on DVD. And he keeps telling me to keep it down so I don't bother him." (Semin then said that he was watching "Vanyukhin's Children"-ed.)
Would you say you are a venturous person?
"Well sure. I love to play poker with the guys on the plane."
And have you been to Las Vegas?
"Never, but I'll be going there soon enough. In June they'll be having the NHL awards ceremony there."
Are you expecting to with the Hart Trophy as the MVP for the season?
"At a minimum I'll win the Rocket Richard trophy. And they'll give me the Kharlamov Trophy in Moscow."
[Thanks to our friend Dmitry Chesnokov for passing along the following additional goodness on the subject.]
Kharlamov Trophy, the Russian version of the Lester B. Pearson Award, is presented by Sovetsky Sport annually to the National Hockey League's most outstanding Russian player in the regular season as judged by other Russian NHL players. It is named after Valery Kharlamov. Despite the fact that Valery Kharlamov has never played in the NHL, in November 2005 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame along with Cam Neely and former Hockey Canada president Murray Costello. In 2008 Kharlamov was also voted one of six players to the International Ice Hockey Federation's Team of the Century in a poll conducted by a group of 56 experts from 16 countries.
According to the results announced in Wednesday’s Sovetsky Sport, 20 Russian NHL players out of 34 who voted named Alex Ovechkin as the best Russian player in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin has won the Trophy for the fourth year in a row. Sergei Zubov of the Dallas Stars explained why Ovechkin is still considered the best by his peers:
"If you put all the [players] together and pick purely on professional characteristics, I would pick Malkin. They say that he is the "complete package" when talking about someone like [Malkin]. He can come out as a winner in any situation. Evgeni has it all: skill, vision of the ice, the feel for the game, the thirst for goals, the aim for the net.
"But if you ask me who I would go to watch tonight, Ovechkin would be my choice. No one has his charisma. The guy is really enjoying what he is doing on the ice. He also does it better than anyone. I enjoy his game immensely, and get energized from his endless energy myself."