With less than 10 games remaining in the NHL regular season, the race for the last few playoff spots in each conference is heating up. Most games have some kind of playoff implications, making for some very exciting hockey. But the recent talk emerging evolves around the possible Hart Trophy candidates, likely spurned by the very tight battles for both the Art Ross Trophy and the Rocket Richard trophy. Currently, Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks leads the NHL in scoring with 101 points, followed closely by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin at 100 points. The race for the Rocket Richard is led by Sidney Crosby at 47 goals, with Ovechkin hot on his heels at 46. Surprisingly, both superstars are being shadowed by Tampa Bay Lightning sophomore Steven Stamkos, who sits at 45 goals.
While some hockey pundits suggest Ovechkin will take home the Hart again, there are others who believe it’s quite up for grabs this year. Ovechkin has a linemate in Nicklas Backstrom who is having arguably a better year. Backstrom is 4th in NHL scoring, and has evolved into a real 2-way threat. The Capitals would still be running away with the Southest division without Ovie in the lineup thanks to players like Backstrom, Alex Semin, Mike Green and their superb secondary scoring. And since the MVP is awarded to the player most valuable to his team, Ovechkin’s two suspensions this year may be a blemish on his resume. But until the award is actually presented, the debate rages on as to who is most deserving.
Ryan Miller is the heart and soul of the Buffalo Sabres. Likely, without him between the pipes they wouldn’t be leading the Northeast division. Miller leads the league in save percentage and is second in goals against average. In keeping with goaltending candidates, Ilya Bryzgalov’s name has been floating around in MVP talk, as his play with the surprising Phoenix Coyotes has been stellar. He has 40 wins this season, and 8 shutouts, and on a team with just three 20 goal scorers, timely goaltending is a key for success. The Coyotes have clinched a playoff spot and rank third in the NHL with 100 points.
If Henrik Sedin wins the Art Ross Trophy, odds are he will be nominated by default. And he did step up admirably when his brother Daniel missed 20 games with an injury. But having star goaltender Roberto Luongo on his team could arguably diminish his chances. And then of course there is Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, who has added a new dimension to his game, which is goal scoring. He’s already eclipsed his career best of 39, and with far less quality linemates then that of Ovechkin or Stamkos. He is stepping up in the absence of Conn Symthe winner Evgeni Malkin, who is out with injury, but who has also had a very subpar season by his standards. Take Crosby off the Penguins and they would not be close to the same team.
Everyone likes to voice their opinion regarding such a topic, but will have to wait until the awards this summer for the answer to be revealed. But even so, it’s always fun to weigh in.