It is the midway point of the season and nearly every NHL media outlet has put forth their opinions on the potential season award winners. When the discussion turns to the leader for the Hart Memorial Trophy names such as Rick Nash, Tyler Johnson, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan Getzlaf, Tyler Seguin, Steven Stamkos and Pekka Rinne seem to resurface time and again, but one player, Evgeni Malkin, is not getting enough recognition so far. Therefore, I am going to make the argument for him here. I understand that NHL.com just put Malkin as their front-runner for the Hart Trophy this week, but they did so by focusing on his point production without steady linemates this season and I believe there is more to the argument for Malkin than that.
Reliability and Consistency
Evgeni Malkin is just one of three Penguins to play every game for the team this season. That level of reliability is important for any team, but has been especially important for the Penguins this season. The Penguins injuries and illnesses have played havoc with the Penguins lineup this season. Malkin has not had a consistent line much of the season, but he stills continues to produce points night after night. Malkin notched at least one point in 32 of the Penguins 42 games so far this season and tallied multiple points in 14 of those games. Here is a comparison to the other leaders for the Hart Trophy.
|GP / Games||Games with at least one point||Percentage||Games with Multiple Points||Percentage|
|Evgeni Malkin||42 / 42||32 of 42||76%||14 of 42||33%|
|Rick Nash||40 / 40||29 of 40||72%||9 of 40||23%|
|Tyler Johnson||43 / 45||30 of 43||69.7%||11 of 43||25.5%|
|V. Tarasenko||43 / 43||29 of 43||67.4%||12 of 43||27.9%|
|Ryan Getzlaf||42 / 43||28 of 42||66.6%||15 of 42||35.7%|
|Tyler Seguin||42 / 42||27 of 42||64%||15 of 42||35.7%|
|S. Stamkos||45 / 45||28 of 45||62%||9 of 45||20%|
As you can see from the chart Malkin has the highest percentage of points per game of the leading contenders. He also ranks third on the list in percentage of games with multiple points and only trails the leaders by a slim margin. To further put the point discussion to rest (for now) only Malkin is ranked in the top ten in each of the top three point categories.
|Evgeni Malkin||19 (9th)||30 (5th)||49 (2nd)|
|Rick Nash||26 (1st)||15 (116th)||41 (14th)|
|Tyler Johnson||17 (15th)||29 (7th)||46 (8th)|
|V. Tarasenko||24 (4th)||22 (34th)||46 (7th)|
|Ryan Getzlaf||13 (44th)||32 (4th)||45 (9th)|
|Tyler Seguin||26 (1st)||22 (35th)||48 (3rd)|
|S. Stamkos||25 (3rd)||18 (72nd)||43 (10th)|
I believe these charts show that when it comes to reliability, consistency and point production, and all of those contributing to the team’s success, no one is doing it better than Evgeni Malkin. I understand that some might argue “Well, what about Jakub Voracek?” and while he might currently lead the league in points, his team is currently four spots out the Wild Card and that is just not enough for the Hart.
It is not just the goals that Malkin has scored this season it is when he scored them that has been important for the Penguins success. While he does not lead the team in game winning goals this season, the two game winning goals he does have came in games where Malkin put the Penguins on his shoulders and carried the team. His first game winning goal of the season came against the Boston Bruins in November. This was a game the Penguins had to win and Malkin put the game on his stick and scored not only the game tying goal, which sent the game to overtime, but he also notched the game winner with this beauty here.
Just one week later Malkin got his second game winner of the season against the New Jersey Devils with this goal early the 3rd period to break a scoreless tie.
What made these two game winning goals so significant was that Malkin was there to lead the charge when the Penguins were at some of their low points of the early half of the season. The Bruins game came just five days after Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung leaving him sidelined for six months. It was also the Monday after a weekend sweep by the Islanders and the Penguins needed a win to calm any questions about their recent play, and like a true leader Malkin was there to carry to the team. The game winner against New Jersey came on a night when Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Kris Letang, Marcel Goc and Chris Kunitz were all scratched from the lineup and Sidney Crosby missed the morning skate to an “undisclosed illness.” The Penguin’s had a rough game, but kept fighting and stayed tough and like a true leader, Evgeni Malkin finally broke through the scoreless tie to pot the game winner.
However it is not just the game winning goals that are important, Malkin has also notched 7 goals and 4 assists this season when the Penguins have trailed by just one goal. Therefore, in the 25 games that the Penguins found themselves down by just one goal, Malkin has helped tie the game 11 times (or 44% of the time). Not all of those turned out to help the Penguins win the game, but five of his game-tying goals did help bring victory for the Penguins such as the ones against the New York Islanders (10-18), New York Rangers (11-15), Boston (11-24), Ottawa (12-6) and then this great one against the Montreal Canadiens last week.
Overall, it is not just the amount of points that Malkin has produced for the Penguins, it is the fact that his goals and assists have come when his teams needs him the most. Crunch time is when an MVP is made and Malkin has been there to answer the call all season.
But reliability, consistency, point production and significant scoring are not the only things that make Malkin stand out as the clear top candidate for the Hart Trophy, he also plays the game smart and physical and has stood up for his team when needed. While Malkin does have 56 penalty minutes this season, more than all the other players discussed here, 22 of those minutes came in two games while standing up for his teammates. Malkin racked up 16 against the New Jersey Devils on the night at Robert Bortuzzo hit Jaromir Jagr and also six against the Toronto Maple Leafs after Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf took some liberties with Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist.
I believe that the Hart Trophy should go to the player who has done the most to lead their team when they needed it the most. So far Malkin has shown reliability, has been consistent night in and night out, has produced points when his team needs it the most, not during garbage time, and finally has played physical all season and stood up for his teammates when needed. This might be the best all-around season from him so far in his career and he deserves to rewarded for that. I think these points should be enough for everyone to highly consider Evgeni Malkin as the league leader for the Hart Trophy this season, I can think of no other candidate that epitomizes the meaning of MVP more than Malkin this season.