Player of the First Half: Alex Ovechkin, Washington -- Is there any doubt that Ovechkin is not only the best player in the Southeast, but perhaps the entire League?
The 23-year-old Russian shared the NHL lead in goals (27) and ranked second in points (54) at the midway mark. He also led the League in shots (245), was tied for fourth in game-winning goals (5) and was sixth in hits (138). He was also tops among all NHL forwards in average ice time (23:15).
Ovechkin, who was named to his third All-Star Game last week, has led the Capitals to their best first-half start to a season in franchise history at 27-11-3. As crazy as it sounds, the man who won the Hart, Maurice Richard, Lester B. Pearson and Art Ross Trophies in 2007-08, could be even better this season. After becoming the first 60-goal scorer in 11 NHL seasons in 2007-08, it isn't too far-fetched to think 'Ovie' could reach 70 -- a feat that hasn't happened since 1992-93 when Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny tied for the League-lead with 76 apiece.
Ovechkin led the NHL in goals in December (12) and ranked tied for fourth in points (19). The Caps are 28-1-1 in the last 30 games when 'Ovie' scores (18-1-1 this season).
Perhaps veteran NBC and TSN analyst Pierre McGuire said it best:
"The thing that Alex Ovechkin does is he attacks the people that are trying to attack him. He will not be intimidated. A lot of guys need other players around him, but he can make himself great and make this team win because of the physical nature of his game. You give him a stick and a puck and he doesn't even need gloves. He's virtually indestructible. I would call him a cyborg."
Coach of the First Half: Bruce Boudreau, Washington -- With all due respect to Florida Panthers first-year coach Peter DeBoer, who certainly has his team headed in the right direction, the job that Boudreau has done is nothing short of remarkable.
Despite losing more than 200 man-games to injury in the first half, the Caps were still able to maintain their perch among the Eastern Conference elite, which speak volumes about Boudreau's leadership.
Caps General Manager George McPhee isn't surprised.
"He knows the game very well and knows how to coach very well," McPhee told NHL.com. "Despite not being in the NHL very long, he is an experienced coach so he's pretty clear on what works and doesn't work."
The Capitals closed out the first half with a seven-game winning streak while winning 12 of their last 13 games. The average attendance at Verizon Center is up 30 percent from this time last year and is the highest attendance through 21 games in franchise history.
"Winning is it; I have a hard time thinking of doing anything without the ultimate goal - victory," Boudreau told NHL.com. "It doesn't always come true but if that's not your goal than you're looking to be mediocre. As a player, maybe I didn't learn that early in my career. But over the last half of my playing career and now in coaching, it's all about winning."
Boudreau won the Jack Adams Award last season despite coaching only 61 games, the second fewest by any Adams-winning coach. After being named coach on an interim basis Nov. 22, 2008, Boudreau led the Caps to a 37-17-7 record and concluded the regular season on a seven-game winning streak to capture the Southeast Division. Boudreau led his charges to 15 wins during the final 19 games of the regular season in 2007-08 en route to the division championship.