Hockey World Blog NHL Award Picks: Hart Trophy

How well would a team perform if their star player went down? Perhaps that’s the issue the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association tries to address when they vote on the Hart Trophy, which recognizes the player “adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” This year’s finalists for the Hart Trophy are Steven Stamkos, Center, Tampa Bay Lightning; Henrik Lundqvist, Goalie, New York Rangers; Evgeni Malkin, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins.

Here are Hockey World Blog’s picks for the Hart Trophy winner:

Chris: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

When a star forward goes down with an injury, other players step up to take his place, his ice time and help his team win. The goalie, however, is probably the hardest player on the ice to replace when he goes down with an injury – especially when he plays in more than two-thirds of the team’s games. While I applaud the overall efforts of Stamkos and Malkin, I believe Lundqvist deserves the Hart Trophy without a doubt. Not only did his outstanding play help propel the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, he gives his team a fighting chance to win on any given night – even when the rest of his team doesn’t show up to play. With a 1.97 goals against average and a .930 save percentage, Lundqvist posted the best stats of his career this past season. He played in 62 games, posting 39 wins and only 18 losses. Had Lundqvist gone down with an injury during the season, the outcome for the Rangers could have been much different for the team.

Eddie: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

I feel the vote could be split between Lundqvist and Malkin. Taking Stamkos out because he didn’t make the playoffs, I believe signs are pointing towards Lundqvist. What could work in the favor of Lundqvist is that he’s the first goalie in five years and the eighth since 1980 to be named a finalist for the Hart Trophy. With the importance on the goaltending position, you would think a goalie would be a finalist for MVP more often but this isn’t the case. A goalie hasn’t won the award often, but we did go through a streak between 1997 and 2002 where a goalie won the Hart three out of six seasons. Jose Theodore was the last goalie to win it in 2002, so it’s a decent chance a goalie can win it this time around.

Eric: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Comparing goalies and skaters is like comparing oranges and apples; you cannot. Without a doubt, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers is an exceptional goalie. And, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins is one of the top athletes in the league. But, and a big but here, both teams have the depth that if either went out, they still would compete and do well. The Tampa Bay Lightning on the other hand, they lack depth and they lack a solid goalie. Steven Stamkos is the heart and soul of the team, and more so, without him, they would be nothing. Contributing for nearly 26% of the team’s goals, and 15% of the team’s overall points, without him, the team would lose. Stamkos netted 12 game winning goals, 5 was the second best. Take out Lundqvist and you still have superstars up front to offset goals allowed by the backup. Take out Malkin and you still have depth both up front and on defense, plus a solid goalie. But take out Stamkos and you have a depth deprives, goal deprived, win deprived team.

Matt: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Henrik Lundqvist had spectacular season, that is certain. But lets keep in mind that the Hart Trophy has only been won by a goaltender seven times since its inauguration after the 1923-24 season. More often than not, the Hart Trophy is won by a forward. That will be the case again this year, as Evgeni Malkin accepts the award after the first 50 goal season of his career. After struggling early on with a lingering knee injury, Malkin hit his stride in November and only got better as the season went along. His three hat tricks, along with four five point games, helped lead the Penguins to a 108 point season – good for fourth best in the league. What’s more impressive is that all of this success was done with Sidney Crosby playing only 22 games. Malkin can elevate his game to new levels and has the ability to carry a team on his back when he needs to. Such was the case this past season, and that is why he will be walking away with the Hart Trophy.

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