Athletistic / Hockey. There are a lot of unexpected things happening during the 2023/2024 NHL season. First, the Vancouver Canucks lead the Western Conference, after missing the playoffs last campaign. Second, the Tampa Bay Lightning are constantly trying to get out of the East Cup Eight. And thirdly, through half of the season, Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin scored only 9 goals.

Now this season can rightly be called the worst for Ovechkin in North America. However, in sports you cannot draw conclusions in advance, and Ovi can still change everything and calmly finish the regular season with 25-30 goals to his credit. But we can say with confidence that the best season of the Dynamo Moscow graduate in the NHL took place in the 2007/2008 campaign.

Ovechkin was already in his third season in the NHL. Over the previous two, he scored 98 goals (51+46), but never reached the playoffs with Washington. At that time, the Capitals had just begun restructuring their roster, but were already “Ovechkin’s team.” At that time, the old Olaf Kolzig and Mikael Nylander were playing in the American capital, managed by Chris Clark, and the legendary tough guy Donald Brashear was defending the Russian.

Photo source: NHL

Washington general manager George McPhee was able to find a center forward to pair with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. After the draft, the Swede spent a season in his native country, then crossed the ocean and immediately started playing in the top three in Ovi.

Washington started the season with three wins, but immediately afterward, they managed to lose four games in a row. So, in October (the regular season began in the middle of the second month of autumn), the capital won five victories in 11 matches. Caps fans had only one joy: very quickly, Ovechkin scored his 100th NHL goal. Only Eric Lindros reached the top hundred faster than him.

Washington continued his anger in November. At that point, absolutely everything was on Ovechkin. The team’s head coach at the time, Glen Hanlon, clearly failed to live up to his responsibilities. In every match, he changed the lines, constantly blamed his players for defeats and did not show any significant ideas to get out of the current situation. It got to the point that at one point Washington fell to last place in the Eastern Conference, with only six wins in 21 matches.

After that, George McPhee returned to the stage. He dismissed Hanlon without regret and appointed the coach of the capital’s farm club, Bruce Boudreau, in his place. Before this season, he had never coached an NHL team, but he twice led the Washington farm to the AHL playoff finals.

Photo source: NHL

— After Boudreau arrived, no one believed in Washington. We were called a “lost team with no future”. But Bruce himself did not doubt us, — Ovechkin said a few years later.

Together with Bruce Boudreau, Ovechkin began to score goals in almost every game. In the first 30 matches of the season, the Russian scored 21 goals. But because of Washington’s disastrous start with Hanlon, the team had to win almost every game to see itself among the participants in the fight for the Stanley Cup in April.

In January, Alexander signed a record contract: the Russian received $124 million from Washington for the next 13 years. Having eliminated all questions about his future, Ovechkin continued to shine and his play kept the team in the fight for the playoffs. At the beginning of 2008, the capital lost Christ Clark, Mikael Nylander, Brian Pothier and Brandon Morrison to injuries. It was very difficult for the young team without its main pair of defenders, but Ovechkin was at his best and took the Caps with him.

Too much responsibility fell on Ovechkin, and he was only 22 years old at the time. By February, Alexander was exhausted and had all but stopped scoring. Not only the playoffs, but also a bouquet of individual awards were handed out to the Russian. But even here, McPhee played ahead of the curve. First, he invited Ovechkin’s personal physical training coach Dmitry Kapitonov to the United States, which quickly brought Ovechkin back to normal.

And then the general manager in Washington did a great job meeting the deadlines. The team added French goalkeeper Cristobal Huet (in the end, the team with him would win 11 of 13 regular season matches and the goalkeeper himself would stop 93.6% of shots), as well as forward Sergei Fedorov. The legendary Russian not only held the position of second center, but was also invited as the “leader” of the team. Fedorov showed and explained to his partners the basics of the work and took Niklas Bäckström under his wing.

Photo source: NHL

March and April were crucial months for Washington. To make the playoffs, a team had to eventually win the division (the NHL then had six divisions instead of four). The capital’s main rival was the Carolina Hurricanes. It turned out that everything was decided by a personal meeting of the teams, scheduled for the beginning of April, to which the teams approached each other with an equal number of points. During this meeting, Ovechkin scored his 63rd goal of the season and Cristobal Hue worked wonders in front of goal. Alexander Ovechkin sent the 64th and 65th into the Tampa door. It was after this game that Washington secured its place in the playoffs for the first time in many years.

In the modern NHL, only Connor McDavid (2022/2023 season) has scored more than 60 goals in a full season. But even the brilliant Canadian, in his best form, did not reach Ovechkin’s result, becoming the author of 64 accurate shots last season. He scored nearly a third of his team’s goals and would have won the MVP even if he hadn’t made the playoffs. Not a single hockey player in the league has done more for his team than Ovechkin.

In the playoffs, Ovechkin and Co. managed to impose a fight on the powerful Philadelphia – the fate of the series was decided in overtime of the seventh game, where luck was on the side of the “pilots”.

Stanley Ovechkin, Fedorov and Alexander Semin compensated for the bitterness of the Stanley Cup failure in the Russian national team. The Washington trio helped the national team win the 2008 World Cup in Quebec, showing incredible play in the decisive matches of the world championship.

Photo source: FHR

The 2007/2008 season remains Ovechkin’s best in terms of the number of points scored – 112 (65+47). At the personal award ceremony at the end of the NHL season, Alexander showed himself with four awards at once:

  • Art Ross Trophy – regular season leader in points;
  • “Hart Trophy” – the best player of the season;
  • “Lester Pearson Award” – the best player of the season according to the hockey players’ union;
  • “Maurice Richard Trophy” – (for the greatest number of goals.

Currently, Alexander has nine “Maurice Resharov”, three “Hart”, one “Art Ross” and one “Lester Pearson” in his collection. Yes, the world saw the first Ovi precisely in the 2007/2008 season.

Nikita Serbakov, Athletistic