Adam Oates made a point at the end of every exit meeting to tell players that while the season might be over, he’s still available to them. Whether they want to talk about their individual goals, hockey in general or anything else. Count Alex Ovechkin among those who took the coach up on his offer.

They exchange texts daily, Oates said in a phone interview earlier this week, with topics ranging from who will win that night’s Stanley Cup playoff game to joking about that picture of Ovechkin in a judges’ stand that his fiancé, Maria Kirilenko, tweeted during the French Open. It’s a sign of how strong a relationship Ovechkin and Oates built during the shortened season and the coach is excited about how he can continue to help the star winger excel.

“I think it’s great. I think it shows that it was something that was missing in his life,” Oates said. “He’s got confidence in me now. He had, I guess you could say, a bounce-back year, he felt good about himself at the end of the year he played hard, he’s got a chance to win MVP. He’s back on top, feeling good, and that allows me to tell him, ‘I think there are still some things that you can do better to keep growing as a player.’ He is our leader, that’s a fact. If he can continue to get better then it sure makes it easier to coach every other guy.”

Ovechkin is a finalist for both the Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, the winners of which will be announced at Saturday night at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network prior to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

It marks the fourth time he has been a finalist for the Hart, which is awarded to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, and the fifth time Ovechkin has been a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is presented to the most outstanding player as voted by their peers.

Ovechkin, who is in Russia and will not be in attendance for the presentation, has won the Hart twice previously (2007-08, 2008-09) and the Lindsay Award three times (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10).