Ovechkin or Backstrom? The Capitals’ MVP Debate


Even if the Washington Capitals do not bring a Stanley Cup back to The District this season, some hardware still may be awarded to members of the Caps at the end of the season.

Both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are tied for the league lead in points at 67 – the leader at the end of the season is awarded the Art Ross Trophy – and Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals at 43, on pace to bring home his fifth Maurice Richard Trophy of his career and third in as many season.

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With both players being the two most productive players on the ice in the NHL at the moment, there’s no reason to not believe that both are in the discussion to be awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s Most Valuable Player.

If Ovechkin and Backstrom were to be finalists for the Hart Trophy, who should be given the title of this season’s MVP?

Let’s start with Backstrom.

He’s been the set-up man in Washington for some time now, and this season is just as evident of that as any. His 49 assists are the most in the NHL and 14 more than John Carlson who is second in that category for the Caps. Backstrom has accounted for 15 percent of Washington’s assists this season.

He’s also on pace for his highest number of goals scored since the 2009-10 season and holds a +/- rating of +5 thus far.

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Then there’s Ovechkin, who has been named the NHL’s Most Valuable Player three times in his career.

As previously stated, the Great 8 leads the league in goals at 43 in just 65 games. Nobody else in Washington comes close to that goal production, as the next highest mark for goals scored this season is set at 18, a mark shared by Eric Fehr, Troy Brouwer and Backstrom himself. His tally of 43 is 23 percent of Washington’s total goals, which stands at 190 to date.

Ovechkin is on pace to record more assists than he has since the 2010-11 season, and his +/- of +12 is his highest since the 2011-12 season.

So, as you have one player creating the opportunities for goals being as productive as the player scoring those goals, which way does the pendulum shift for the title of MVP?

To me, it has to be Alex Ovechkin.

He’s capitalizing on the opportunities that Backstrom and others are giving him, and at the end of the day, you don’t win without goals, and not all of Ovechkin’s goals are assisted.

He also has 10 game-winning goals this season, more than double the amount that anyone else in Washington has.

This is not to take anything away from Backstrom, who is spreading the puck around and is truly being the point guard, so-to-speak, of this team.

But when 23 percent of your goals are game-winners, and you lead the league again in that category, as well as overall points, the debate for the MVP has to be concluded with Ovechkin as that winner, not just for the Capitals, but for the NHL.

Next: Capitals Ready for Final Leg of Season