Hockey: Best not always in playoffs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- All last week, the debate over whether Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin should win the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP seemed to hinge on one factor: if his team made the playoffs. It's a stupid argument.

Whether the Caps sneaked in by a point or two -- undoubtedly making Commissioner Gary Bettman giddy -- or just missed making the playoffs shouldn't determine whether he's worthy. That misguided logic caused winger Jarome Iginla to be robbed of the 2002 MVP. The Flames missed the playoffs, so goalie Jose Theodore won the Hart because his Canadiens' team made the postseason. (By the way: Washington clinched the Southeast Division title Saturday with a 3-1 win over Florida.)

Here's what's important to know: With one game left in the regular season, Ovechkin had 65 goals -- most ever by a left winger and 13 more than anyone else in the league this season. It's the most for any NHL player in 12 years. His 112 points led the league. His 11 game-winning goals led the league.

"I can't even believe people are questioning it," Ovechkin's teammate, Shaone Morrisonn, told The Canadian Press. "He's been unbelievable this year. He's put the team on his back. He's got 60-plus goals and he's just flying out there. There's a lot of great players in this league, but I can't imagine our team without him."

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin deserves loads of praise for how he carried the scoring load while the NHL's biggest superstar, Sidney Crosby, was injured. But Malkin only did it for part of the season. Ovechkin has done it the entire season.

SATURDAY'S GAMES -- Thomas Vanek had a hat trick as Buffalo ended its season with a 3-0 win over host Boston. ... Keith Tkachuk scored the 498th and 499th goals of his career as St. Louis beat visiting Columbus 3-0. ... Teemu Selanne scored two goals as Anaheim beat host Los Angeles 4-3. ... Colby Armstrong scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period and Atlanta added two empty-netters in the final minute of a 4-1 win over visiting Tampa Bay. ... Chris Higgins scored twice, and Montreal beat visiting Toronto 3-1. The Canadiens can win the East's top seed if Pittsburgh loses to Philadelphia today. ... Jarome Iginla scored his 50th goal and had two assists in Calgary's 7-1 rout of host Vancouver.