More than two decades ago, Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier accomplished something no NHL player had done before. And until Wednesday, Messier was the only NHL player ever to achieve the feat of earning NHL postseason all-star status at two different positions.
Messier was voted as First Team left wing on the NHL’s postseason all-star selections in both 1980-81 and 1981-82. Nearly a decade later (in 1989-90 and 1991-92) Messier repeated the feat as a center. He became the first player in league history to earn postseason all-star honors at two different positions.
On Wednesday, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin went Messier one better. Ovechkin was named First Team all-star at right wing for the 2012-13 season. And because a large portion of the voting populace (members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association) were apparently unaware that Ovechkin had moved from left win to right wing very early in the 2012-13 season, the Russian winger was also named as the NHL’s Second Team all-star at left wing.
Ovechkin joins Messier as the only players to be named to the league’s postseason all-star team at two different positions, but Ovechkin is – and quite likely always will be – the only one named at two different positions in the same season.
Ovechkin opened the ’12-13 campaign on the right side as suggested by first-year Caps head coach Adam Oates. Three games in, Ovechkin requested a move back to the left side. Oates acquiesced, and Ovechkin spent the next four games in his customary left wing spot. He totaled two goals and two points in those four games, and then told Oates he was ready to move to the right side. For the final 41 games of the season, Ovechkin played exclusively on the right side.
Ovechkin finished the lockout-shortened campaign with 32 goals in 48 games – including a run of 23 goals in his last 23 games – to earn his third Rocket Richard Trophy and he later earned his third Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
The 27-year-old winger learned of his “Hart Trick” last month, during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The NHL announced results of the postseason all-star balloting on Wednesday. The results left the PHWA with some egg on its collective face, and the association has vowed publicly to refine its voting process to ensure that a player would not be named to the postseason all-star team at multiple positions in the future.
That should also ensure Ovechkin will remain the only NHL player ever to achieve that distinction.