NHL players to watch: Ovechkin, Crosby, Kane, Stamkos, Price
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have won five of the last nine Hart Trophies and are the only active players to win multiple MVP awards.
Team success, though, has been elusive for both lately and for Ovechkin throughout his career.
The Ovechkin-led Capitals haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh is coming off a first-round exit, its third in five years, and the Penguins haven’t come close to contending for a Stanley Cup since hoisting it in 2009.
Both teams made a significant move last summer in an attempt to help them next spring. Soon after free agency opened, the Capitals acquired winger T.J. Oshie from St. Louis for Troy Brouwer, a prospect and a pick. The Penguins picked up winger Phil Kessel from Toronto in a six-player trade.
Here are some players to watch when the NHL drops the puck for the regular season this week:
OVECHKIN: The Russian led the league in goals for a third straight year, scoring 50-plus times for the second consecutive season, to win his fifth Richard Trophy. No one has won it more than twice since the NHL started giving out the trophy in 1999. Clearly, though, he can’t win in the playoffs by himself, and Oshie might be just the kind of player he needs on the team’s top line.
CROSBY: Sid the Kid is not old, but at 28, he’s not young in professional sports. He was able to stay healthy last season, for the second straight year, after concussions and a broken jaw limited him the previous three years. Crosby scored 28 goals last season, his lowest total in a relatively healthy season, but Kessel’s presence should help him score and set up teammates more.
PATRICK KANE: The three-time champion skates into the season with his off-ice life being scrutinized again. The Chicago Blackhawks have stuck by their superstar, and have gotten some criticism for that, while a criminal investigation into a sexual assault allegation against him continues. Kane insisted he did “nothing wrong” on the night in question.
STEVEN STAMKOS: The Tampa Bay Lightning and their 25-year-old superstar center have stayed quiet about contract talks entering the final year of his deal. Stamkos is due for a big raise after averaging nearly 40 goals during his first seven seasons in the NHL. If that huge boost in pay is not happening in Tampa Bay, it’s easy to envision him cashing in while returning to play near his hometown for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
CAREY PRICE: It will be tough for the Montreal Canadiens goaltender to top what he did last season. Price became the first to win the Hart and Vezina Trophies along with the Lindsay Award since Dominik Hasek pulled off the trifecta in 1998 while playing for the Buffalo Sabres.
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: He missed 24 games last season with a strained blood vessel in his neck before bouncing back to play in the postseason. The New York Rangers are counting on him because they traded a capable backup, Cam Talbot, to Edmonton on the same day a goalie with less experience, Antti Raanta, was acquired from Chicago.
ERIK KARLSSON: The Ottawa Senators star won his second Norris Trophy in four years, joining Chicago’s Duncan Keith as the only active players to be honored as the NHL’s top defenseman multiple times. The offensive-minded blue liner is just 25, giving him a chance to create quite a legacy.
TOMAS TATAR: Looking for a breakout candidate? Tomas Tatar may be ready to go from good to great this season for the Detroit Red Wings. He went from 19 goals and 20 assists two years ago, his first full season in the league, to 29 goals and 27 assists last season.
JAROMIR JAGR: Yes, he’s still playing in the NHL. The 43-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers, who liked enough of what they saw after acquiring him from New Jersey last season to bring him back.
CONNOR MCDAVID: The No. 1 pick overall this year has drawn rave reviews, even from veteran stars, to generate quite a buzz for Edmonton’s 18-year-old center.
JACK EICHEL: Buffalo will not have a boring hockey team anymore, and the No. 2 pick overall, an 18-year-old center, has a lot to do with that.
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