Henrik Lundqvist has had one of the most dominating seasons in NHL history, and he should be rewarded by receiving the Hart Trophy this June. Before you rebuke me and explain that Evgeni Malkin should win, let me explain that there is a trophy of similar prestige that should and will likely be awarded to "Geno."
The Hart Memorial Trophy is defined as "the oldest and most prestigious individual award in hockey." It is awarded annually to the "player adjudged most valuable to his team" in the National Hockey League. It is the top individual award for a player to receive. In short, it is the MVP award.
However, most people correlate an MVP trophy with being the best player. Evgeni Malkin is probably the best player in the league and will likely win the Ted Lindsay Award, which is handed out to the best player as determined by the players.
When looking at the parameters of a most valuable player award, Henrik Lundqvist should immediately come to mind. He is the best player at the most important position in hockey. Goaltenders are a team's last line of defense and are often the foundation on which championships are built. Names like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek are synonymous with greatness in the modern era.
When looking at the New York Rangers' success, it is interesting to wonder where the team would be in the standings without Lundqvist. It is fair to say that the team has one of the best defensive corps in the league and that the Rangers have a well-regarded backup in Martin Biron, but it is impossible to ignore Lundqvist's earth-shattering numbers.
Lundqvist has 30 wins so far this season and it is his seventh consecutive 30-win season to start his NHL career. That is an NHL record, and he is the only goaltender in league history to have ever accomplished it.
When looking at the league leaders, Lundqvist is really dominating the spread:
- First in save percentage (.940)
- First in shutouts (eight)
- Second in goals against (1.75)
- Third in wins (30)
- Least amount of goals surrendered (81)
What is remarkable is that all of these numbers have been posted by Lundqvist despite ranking 13th overall in games played this season with 46 appearances overall.
History Suggests Henrik Should Win
With dominating numbers like this, Henrik should win the Hart considering Jose Theodore and Dominik Hasek posted inferior numbers in their Hart campaigns:
- (1996-97) 37 wins, 2.27 GAA, .930 SV%, 5 SO
- (1997-98) 33 wins, 2.09 GAA, .932 SV%, 13 SO
- (2001-02) 30 wins, 2.11 GAA, .931 SV%, 7 SO
Projected End-of-the-Year Numbers for Lundqvist
- (2011-12) 40 wins, 1.75 GAA, .940 SV%, 10 SO
With Lundqvist on pace to win at least 40 games and maintain a goals-against average under 2.00 and a save percentage between .935-.940, Lundqvist will blow away the numbers that we deemed worthy for a Hart Trophy.
Why Not Malkin?
Evgeni Malkin is having a great season, but he's not the player who is most valuable to his team. Why is this the case? Last season, injuries marred the campaigns of Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal. As a result, the Penguins still made the postseason and set a franchise record for wins and points despite not having these stars. The team proved that they could win without Malkin.
Conventional wisdom says that with Malkin, the Penguins should be at the top of the Eastern Conference. Even more so with James Neal and Jordan Staal contributing. Malkin has showed that he is the best player but not most valuable. History shows if you take Malkin away from the Penguins, they can still be successful. It is unlikely the same can be said about Lundqvist.
Martin Biron may be a good backup, but most of his wins have come against weaker teams. There is no way the Rangers would have a nine-point lead in the conference with Biron as the No. 1 net minder.
Yes, it is fair to say that last season is last season and that Malkin is dominating this year, but the team is only in fourth place. MVP's carry their teams and that is exactly what Henrik Lundqvist has done this season.
Malkin will likely end up winning the Ted Lindsay Trophy due to the fact that he has had an amazing season, and he will likely win the Art Ross Trophy as well. Based on the parameters and description of the Hart Trophy, Malkin shouldn't win over Lundqvist.
In all likelihood, the voters may still award Malkin the Hart Trophy because there is a bias when handing goalies the Hart Trophy. The same is evident for pitchers in baseball.
It would be fair to say at this point, the Vezina Trophy is Lundqvist's to lose, but when a goaltender is having as dominating a season as Lundqvist is having, it is only fair to reward him with the Hart Trophy, as Lundqvist is the most valuable player to his team in the entire NHL.
Tom Urtz, Jr. is an NHL Featured Columnist. For NHL news, updates and alerts about players: