Malkin vs. Stamkos Matchup Puts Hart Trophy Debate to Rest

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IFebruary 25, 2012

Evgeni Malkin walked through the entire Tampa Bay defense and decked his way past Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson for his second goal of the game.

Almost seconds after his highlight reel goal which will easily receive best goal of the year consideration, Pittsburgh announcers remarked how unimaginably similar it was to Mario Lemieux's goal against the Minnesota North Stars

The Penguins crushed the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1 behind an Evgeni Malkin hat trick. 

Malkin scored his 34th, 35th, and 36th goal of the season, propelling himself ahead of Steven Stamkos who he was previously tied with at 73 points before this head to head matchup. 

The NHL's new leading and points getter added an assist on a James Neal goal. Although he only shot five times and played only 13 minutes, Malkin showed he didn't need much playing time or many scoring opportunities to inflict maximum damage. 

Stamkos was a virtual no show other than a shot that rang off the post just as time expired at the second period. With the Lightning selling off their assets on a daily basis one has to question just how much talent Stamkos will be surrounded with after February 27th. 

Meanwhile, the Pens keep rolling, battling with New Jersey and Philadelphia for that ever important 4th seed to secure home ice advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. 

One has to wonder what pieces General Manager Ray Shero plans to add to aid the MVP. Neal and Malkin are amazing together and the chemistry between the two has been a pleasure to watch. Could the Penguins add another winger for Malkin to play with, or will the team get someone for Sidney Crosby's hopeful return? 

With Pavel Datsyuk on the injured list, the NHL is now Malkin's playground, to do with as he pleases.

The Pens-Lightning matchup not only puts the Hart Trophy debate to rest, but also gives Malkin a healthy lead over Stamkos for the Art Ross Trophy for most points in a season. 

The Pens surely must be envisioning a lengthy playoff run. Even without their captain, Malkin has shown that he can carry this team on his shoulders and take them to glory.

Only time will tell if we see another Conn Smythe worthy performance from the big Russian.