Although only six goaltenders have ever brought home the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s version of the MVP), Henrik Lundqvist should be bestowed with this year’s award for his outstanding regular season with the New York Rangers.
The 2012 finalists are Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, and Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist solidified his role as one of the league’s elite netminders this season as he led the Eastern Conference in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts. Lundqvist also set a career high with 39 wins despite starting a career-low 62 games.
The Swedish gold medalist was superb throughout the entirety of the regular season, and he led his team to the top of the Eastern Conference and their first division title in 18 years.
On countless occasions, Lundqvist was able to keep his team in close games by making acrobatic saves and robbing more guys than Bonnie and Clyde.
It is hard to discredit the fantastic season of Malkin or the staggering number of goals that Stamkos tallied; however, neither player was as vital to his team’s success as Lundqvist was to the Rangers.
Malkin was certainly the leader of the Penguins offense, and he carried the workload in the absence of Sidney Crosby—although the league’s top offensive team featured plenty of other premier scorers. Including Malkin, five forwards posted 25 or more goals this year with Crosby posting an impressive 37 points in a mere 22 games played.
Who will win this year's Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's MVP?
Stamkos also played undeniably brilliant becoming just the first 60-goal scorer since Alex Ovechkin netted 65 in 2007-08. But Stamkos is simply not the league’s most valuable component to their team. He should be a shoo-in for the Ted Lindsay award, which is given annually to the NHL’s “most outstanding” player, but his team’s lack of success makes it difficult to justify.
The Tampa Bay Lightning finished 10th in the Eastern Conference standings and ranked 27th in goal differential with a -46. They were also the conference’s worst team on the road and allowed by far the most goals in the league with a disturbing 3.4 goals against per game.
In the past fifty years only Dominik Hasek (twice) and Jose Theodore were recognized as the NHL’s MVP.
In those three seasons they averaged totals of 33 wins, 22 losses and a 2.15 GAA.
Lundqvist this season: 39 wins, 18 losses, and 1.97 GAA.
I hope you have space in your trophy case King Henry, because you’re going to need room for two more shiny toys come June 20th.