Is it Over?Posted: 23/03/2012
Alright, I think a lot of people would agree that the race for the Art Ross Trophy might be over. Geno has built up a 10-point lead over Claude Giroux, whose team has one fewer game left to play than the Pens do. Stamkos is 11 points off the lead. If anything, Stamkos stands the “better” chance of catching Geno. Given the fact that the Pens have clinched a playoff berth, and the Flyers are a lock to make it as well, it is certainly possible that both Malkin and Giroux might get a rest for the final couple games of the regular season, whereas Stamkos’s Lightning are not going to make it, and he will undoubtedly be in the lineup for the team’s final nine games assuming he doesn’t get injured. So if anything maybe he can catch Geno, but frankly he already has played in 7 more games than Malkin this year, so I have my doubt that he can close the gap with two more extra games.
So where does that leave us for the Hart Trophy? Well clearly, this too should be effectively over, but if there is one thing I’ve learned about Hart Trophy voting, those with the vote have a good penchant for screwing it up. Of course a good example would be the 2008-09 season. This was the year that Malkin won his first Art Ross Trophy but did not win the Hart Trophy. Alexander Ovechkin took that trophy despite finishing three points behind Geno for the scoring race. As a Pens fan it is easy to say that Geno was jobbed that year, and in some ways he was, although it all worked out because Malkin did win the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup so I’ll take that trade off. But even then I would say that in terms of MVP, as much as it pains me to say it, Ovechkin might have earned it that year. He was the best player on arguably the best regular season team that year. His 56 goals were far and away the most that year, and were fully 21 more than the 35 that Malkin scored.
Unfortunately that probably isn’t the most egregious example. Last year Corey Perry won the Hart with only 98 points, a full six points off of what Daniel Sedin produced to win the Art Ross (104), and only good enough to finish third in points overall, behind even Martin St. Louis who scored 99. To make matters worse, there is no doubt that Sedin was the best player on the best regular season team – the Canucks won the President’s Trophy last year. The only thing that Sedin didn’t have was goals, just like Malkin in 09. Perry was the only player to reach 50 last year, and that is exactly why some people believe that Stamkos could still win the Hart this year. He is the only player with fifty so far this year, and although Malkin has been averaging .68 goals per game, which would put him on pace for 51 if he plays in the final 9 games for the Pens, there is no guarantee that he will reach that number.
I mean there are drawbacks to Stamkos’s case—the last player to win the Hart when his team missed the playoffs was Mario Lemeuix in 87-88 season. Lemeiux won the award by leading the league in goals (70) which was fifteen more than the next closest, and points (168), which was a full 19 more than Wayne Gretzky’s 149. Compare that to the fact Stamkos currently trails Malkin by double digits in points, and is only five ahead in terms of goals and if Stamkos were to win the award Malkin could probably sue the league for xenophobia.
People also contend that Henrik Lunqvist should be considered for the Hart. To this I would also ask why? It’s hard to even view Lundqvist as a shoe-in to win the Vezina anymore. Brian Elliott has surpassed him in save percentage and goals against average. Further, Elliott’s team, the St. Louis Blues, currently lead the Rangers in the overall standings. Beyond that, and again, this may be a self-centered statement, but it would even be really hard to count out Marc-Andre Fleury and his league leading 40 wins for the Vezina. Lundqvist has 34 wins, and a limited number of starts, to say that Lundqvist is the league’s MVP means that you either stopped watching hockey in January or you have never watched a Western Conference game.