Blog Entry

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.


Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:52 am

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

So you are saying that with stamkos TB is in the bottom 5 of the league, and without him they would be in the bottom 5 of the league, not exactly MVP argument, player of the year, maybe, but not MVP.

Since: Feb 9, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:28 am

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Serious lack of Gardiner for Calder.  Kid has been fantastic. Logged 27 minutes again tonight and was the best player on the ice in the game for the Leafs.

19 points in 54 games, +6, 21+ minutes a game. Overall poise is just incredible. Also second among Rookies in ES/SH TOI. Not saying he should win it, but Matt Read over Gardiner? Really?

Since: Feb 24, 2012
Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:46 am

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Stamkos not being in the top 5 for the Hart is absolutely ridicilous. So what Tampa Bay is out of the playoffs at the moment, without him they would be in Columbus territory. The guy has 22 more goals than the next best player on his team, is +7 on a team with the worst G.A.A in the league, has 35 even strength goals which is more than anyone else has in total goals, has 9 game winning goals...oh and he's currently tied for the league lead in points. 

Give you head a shake buddy.

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:20 am

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

how is datsyuk not even considered for the hart trophy?

i am sorry he is not putting up huge numbers but there is a hell of a lot more to being the best than putting up big stats.

he is the pace setter for the best team in hockey, he was recently ranked by his peers as the smartest player; hardest player to take puck from; most difficult to play against; cleanest player; hardest forward to take puck away from, and goalies think he is the most difficult to stop.

so why does this sextuplet threat not even crack your top 5 candidates for the hart when everyone in the NHL is petrified of being the next sucker for his highlight reel? oh yeah he does not have alot of points.

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:30 pm

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

That's the first time I've ever seen someone say Malkin and the Pens benefit from Crosby and at times Staal being out. You do realize Malkin's line was, and basically is, the Pens single scoring option? Whereas other teams go 2, even 3 lines strong, offensively the Pens are basically a one-line team with Staal and role players chipping in.
The one thing though the Pens get out of their other lines is good defensive play, so while you might only have 1 scoring line, you got 3 lines behind them that are good at keeping the other team from scoring. 

That's the one thing that always gets shaded in sports: Offense shines while defense tends to be hidden in the shadows.  If you look at the Flyers though, they have given up a bunch of their defensive ability (not including the Pronger injury) from the forward position.  The only player on the team that seems to know how to play both sides of the rink is Giroux (though Simmonds has picked up his game recently and has played *reeallly* well the past few weeks).

Give and take.

Since: Jun 8, 2009
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:15 pm

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Nice to see Jimmy Howard getting his props. Wings produce home-grown talent like no other team in the league, but between the pipes always seems the exception. Not anymore. Go get em Jimmy.

Since: Aug 9, 2008
Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:42 pm

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Calder with no question belongs to LANDESKOG!!! If Lando was wearing any other uniform with his stats he wouldnt be getting ignored like he is now.

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:42 pm

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Exactly. Without Giroux, the Flyers would still be scoring goals. Without Malkin, the Penguins would be in big trouble.

No they wouldn't.  Who is leading the team in goals?  Scott Hartnell.  He's a top10 goal scorer in the league right now.  You think that would be possible without Giroux?  There is no other center on the team that can do what he does.  Jagr would probably be scoring some to his own right, but Giroux is what makes it all possible. 

Not true. Just because he's Russian doesn't mean he can't play defense.
What does being Russian have to do with him not playing D?  There are plenty of Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Frenchians, Africans, Eskimos, etc etc etc that don't play D either.

Letang, one of the best defensemen in the NHL, missed significant time.
Hate to break it to you, but Letang is not one of the best dmen in the league.  Maybe he's a good offensive defensemen, but at his primary job? know, being a defensemen...he's pretty average at best.  I'll take Orpik waaaay before Letang for his ability to actually play defense.

Since: Nov 5, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2012 7:43 pm

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

I think the MVP and Vezina should go to Ludquist.

I usually don't like that (similar to the Cy Young in MLB), but take Lundquist off the NYR and they are an 8 seed, not a 1 seed.

Giroux and Malkin are somewhat the same fighting for 2nd there. Let the points dictate the Art Ross trophy. The edge between those two for me goes to Giroux because he's a 2-way player. It's not that Malkin doesn't play D, it's more like Giroux is better, much better, as a 2-way forward.

Also, the Vezina trophy isn't necessarily "clear." Jonathan Quick has done much of the same that Lundquist has, but his team in front of him is laying an egg. Put Quick on the Rangers, and you might not lose a step. Obviously, I think Lundquist is the favorite, but Quick is definitely in the conversation, i.e., its not "clear."

The Selke could just as easily go to Giroux as Datsyuk seems to get the nod every year. It's not b/c I'm a Flyer fan, it's more like identifying that Giroux could outmatch almost every "defensive" forward in the league. No way I would take Bergeron or Toews in that role over Giroux.

But it's only February.

Since: Dec 7, 2008
Posted on: February 23, 2012 7:33 pm

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

he is leading the best offense in the NHL

Exactly. Without Giroux, the Flyers would still be scoring goals. Without Malkin, the Penguins would be in big trouble.

that lost its Captain and top two point scorers from the 4 last years.

The Penguins lost the best player in the game.

He is less than average defensively.

Not true. Just because he's Russian doesn't mean he can't play defense.

Also NYI and 6 other teams have lost more starters to injury than Pittsburgh so take that with a grain of salt.  

Not sure where you are getting that from ( says otherwise, granted it is a couple days old), but reagrdless, nobody has lost as much value as the Penguins to injury. Crosby, the best player in the game, has been out for practically the whole year. Staal has missed significant time. Letang, one of the best defensemen in the NHL, missed significant time. The rest of their top 4 dmen have missed time as well. And yet, they are still in the playoffs unlike the Islanders.

Malkin has more points in less games, on a team that needs it much more. Giroux could make a push for it, but right now, I think it goes hands down to Malkin. Lundquist is also deserving, but I doubt they give the MVP to a goalie still.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or