It is only fitting that Alex Ovechkin is back in Las Vegas this week, once again basking in the spotlight of another dominant season with the Capitals.
The 29-year-old captain is up against Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and Islanders captain John Tavares for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. He’s also up against Price and Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn for the Ted Lindsay Award, given by the players to the league’s Most Outstanding Player.
Both awards will be handed out during Wednesday night’s NHL Awards dinner in Las Vegas.
Fittingly, it was in Vegas a year ago that Ovechkin and Barry Trotz began a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
“I met him in Vegas for the NHL awards,” Trotz recalled. “We spent probably four or five hours. I had about 45 or 50 questions.”
Trotz wanted to know everything about his captain. From what he thought made a good teammate to whether he preferred playing left wing or right wing.
Always an elite goal scorer, Ovechkin was coming off a season in which he scored a league-high 51 goals but was a career-worst minus-35 and had missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
“Really, what I told him is that I wanted him to be more active,” Trotz said. “I thought he had too much glide in his game. When I was in the other conference we talked about how he wasn’t skating and how easy he is to cover.”
Ovechkin took the criticism to heart and worked all season to become a better two-way player. He back-checked like he meant it, threw bone-jarring hits in all three zones and played with the kind of fury that made his teammates want to play the same way.
As a result, Ovechkin led the NHL with 53 goals, 25 power-play goals, 11 game-winning goals and 395 shots while finishing a respectable plus-10. But was it enough for him to beat out Price, Tavares and Benn for two of the most coveted individual awards in hockey?
Ovechkin has won the Hart and the Lindsay three times each. Here’s a statistical look at his rivals:
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: Price led the Canadiens to their best regular season since 1988 while leading the NHL in wins , goals-against average [1.96] and save percentage [.933]. He actually received an informal vote from Trotz late in the season and has the chance to become the third goalie in 50 years to win the Hart. Former Caps goalie Jose Theodore did it with the Habs in 2002 and Dominik Hasek did it with the Sabres in 1997 and 1998. This is Price's first Hart Trophy nomination.
John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares had the most productive season of his career, setting career highs in goals  and points . He finished second behind Benn in the scoring race and helped the Islanders to their best regular season in more than two decades. This is his third nomination for the Hart.
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars: Benn needed a hat trick and a four-point game in his final game of the regular season to finish first in the NHL in scoring [87 points]. He set career highs in points, goals  and assists  . He was tied for first in the NHL in even strength points , third in points-per-game [1.06] and 11th in average ice-time among all forwards [19:56]. It’s his first nomination for the Ted Lindsay Award.
MORE CAPITALS: You won't 'beliebe' who Ovechkin met in Vegas