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NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 1:04 pm
 
Last year's winner Corey Perry poses with the Hart Trophy. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Rankings. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

The Hart Trophy is the king of trophies, the biggest and best (outside of the Stanley Cup and playoff awards, of course) in the game. It goes to the league's most valuable player.

And here's the thing about it this season: It is going to be one heck of a race to the finish to determine it. The top of the points leaderboards are scrunched. So are the playoff pictures. That means the Hart race is in the same squished mode too.

The difference between a lot of guys right now in the Hart race is like differentiating between a Lamborghini or Ferrari, you really won't go wrong either way. Then you have Mercedes Benzs, Audis and Lexuses in the conversation too. So many great choices, so few winners. Just one, in fact. We aren't Jay Leno here and buying them all.

These rankings are reflective of where they stand now. They are certainly subject to change. For example, Steven Stamkos didn't crack the list here, but if the Lightning actually overcome their five-point hole and grab a playoff spot despite selling seemingly half their team, he'd have to be in consideration without a doubt.

Keep in mind the Hart race is incredibly tight with a ton of contenders at this point. There is an argument to be made for a lot of other players as well as for the order here to be changed. I'm sure you'll make those arguments below. This is just one man's opinion.

The Hart starts with a guy who hasn't won it yet despite some awesome seasons recently. But he was hindered by another spectacularly awesome teammate who hasn't been there much to help this season.

We also look at the Vezina, which isn't anywhere near as tight as the Hart race at the top but the fighting for the finalists is fierce.

Award watch
Hart Vezina
Evgeni Malkin The Penguins have had to deal with more injury loss this season than any other team, including two of their top three centers. The third is Malkin. He leads the league in points and is second in goals. He's been the best player in the league. But this race is very tight and has a long way to go. Henrik Lundqvist The Rangers are arguably the top team in the league and Lundqvist is a massive reason why. He is tops in the league in save percentage at a whopping .940 and has a goals against of 1.78. He's separated himself from the field ... and the Rangers from the East field as well.
Henrik Lundqvist Yes, I think he's been good enough to be seriously in this conversation. He's incredibly valuable to the Rangers, that's not a question for anybody. With scoring down so much in the NHL, this is a perfect year for a goaltender to win the Hart again. Jonathan Quick He means as much to the Kings as Lundqvist does to the Rangers and I'm not going to penalize a goaltender for his offense's lack of production. His 1.96 goals against and .931 save percentage are very good. He's the only reason Los Angeles is still fighting for a playoff berth.
Claude Giroux He was asked to carry a lot more of the load in Philadelphia this season and he has. Despite missing a few games with a concussion, the 24-year-old Giroux is set to pass his career highs very soon with 23 goals and 47 assists already despite playing just 55 games. He's had to with Philly's defense. Jimmy Howard Despite recently missing three weeks in February with a broken finger, Howard is still second in the league in wins with 32 (one behind Pekka Rinne). He is having a career season with a 2.03 goals against average and .924 save percentage and is a big reason why the Wings have returned to the top of the West.
Radim Vrbata Why not? He has 30 goals and counting on the season for the Coyotes, a team that otherwise relies on defense. That's 12 more than anybody else on the team. Aside from Ray Whitney, everybody on the team is at least 16 points behind Vrbata. For a team expected to be in the basement, he deserves a lot of credit. Brian Elliott The only thing keeping Elliott this far down the list is the fact that he splits almost 50/50 in St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak. But his 1.65 goals against average and .937 save percentage are obscene. However he'll be hurt by Halak's success as well as the Ken Hitchcock argument ... he makes all goalies look good.
Jason Spezza The assumption before the season was that the Senators were going to be in the running for the best lottery position, not the Northeast Division crown with the Bruins. But here they are and Spezza's 27 goals and 39 assists are a massive reason why. So is Erik Karlsson, but he'll show up elsewhere. Tim Thomas Last year's runaway with the Vezina, Thomas isn't having the season he did a year ago. But in his defense, nobody ever had before him either. He's still excellent with his .929 save percentage and 2.21 goals against. For now he barely beats out Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne in this race for me.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Calder: Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Read.

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Glen Sather, Don Maloney.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Comments

Since: Jan 31, 2007
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:40 am
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

hahaha I just wrote the same thing about Stamkos...what a joke.



Since: Jan 31, 2007
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:38 am
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Yup!



Since: Jan 31, 2007
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:38 am
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

How is Stamkos not in this discussion for the Hart? I know the Bolts are probably not making the post season, but c'mon, SS needs to be on the list.



Since: Jul 23, 2010
Posted on: February 25, 2012 10:39 am
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

This writer is a idiot. The only person that comes close to being a better goalie then Pekka Rinne this year is Lundqvist, and that's only because he has a better team in front of him. Rinne is the front runner for the Vezina and this clown don't even rank him. Oh, I am a Red wings fan not predators fan. Howard would be third on my list by the way.



Since: Feb 24, 2012
Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:29 am
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Tampa isn't in the bottom 5 in the league and have a resonable chance of making the playoffs. Without Stamkos they would be in a battle with Columbus for cellar-dwellers.



Since: Nov 19, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:33 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

In reply to Datysuk not being mentioned for Hart Trophy, here are few hard facts: hes 14th in the league in scoring (and that is going to slip with him on IR), hes definetly not cracking 25 goals this year, and he may even be hard pressed to break 20 goals at this point.  Stats arent everything, but Im sorry, Hart Trophies arent handed out to guys with creditentials like that.  You cant give a Hart away to a guy who cant crack 20 goals.  Dont get me wrong, he is a tremendously gifted athlete, but he really should not be in the Hart conversation, at least not this year.



Since: Nov 8, 2011
Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:09 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

 I am not sure about the Malkin comment with team related injuries. The people they lost are his position. He gets more ice time and PP time, only benefits. 

Sorry, completely wrong. When you are the only scoring line you draw the most attention defensively. More time in hockey only leads to more fatigue, not exactly more scoring chances.  With injuries it allows teams to focus on stopping Malkin and he has played harder than I have ever seen in his career. He has always played significant time on the PP, even when they are 100%. 



Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 6:26 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Because his GAA and save % are both worse than any of the guys' mentioned.



Since: May 13, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:43 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

How is Bryzgalov not a contender for the Vezina!?



Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:05 am
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Vrbata?  Are you serious?

Nice to see Vrbata getting some mention here. By definition the Hart is rewarded to "the most valuable to his team".  Yotes aren't even sniffing the playoffs let alone steamrolling during the push, 9-0-1 in last 10, without Vrbata.  Other players are better, score more, etc. but as a value to his team and where he puts his team or where they would be without them hard to not throw him in the mix at this time.  It's the age old debate on the definition of MVP and the Hart Mem Trophy.  Kudos to Stubits on this one.


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