NHL 13 Cover Vote: Power-Ranking the Final 4 Players
Back on April 25, voting to select the cover athlete for NHL 13 commenced, with 16 different NHL players originally getting the nod. This is the first time the EA Sports gaming franchise has held a fan-participation tournament to select their cover athlete.
The initial list included players such as P.K. Subban, Henrik Lundqvist, Jordan Eberle, Steven Stamkos and many, many more.
The field has been whittled down to the final four participants, with two players per bracket. In the battle of Pennsylvania, Claude Giroux will face off against Evgeni Malkin to advance to the finals. In the other bracket, John Tavares squares off against Pekka Rinne.
Who has the best shot to win the honor of gracing the cover of NHL 13?
Let's power-rank them.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
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Fresh off a disappointing playoff exit at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes, Pekka Rinne still enjoyed a Vezina-worthy season, going 43-18-8 while finishing with a 2.39 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and five shutouts to give him some national recognition.
That newfound notoriety has propelled the third-seeded Rinne into the final four, beating out Patrick Sharp and Henrik Lundqvist along the way to make it to the semifinal round of voting.
However, Rinne will have his hands full trying to beat out young stud John Tavares.
Chances of winning: Slim
John Tavares, New York Islanders
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In just three seasons, John Tavares has cemented himself as one of the rising stars of the NHL. After receiving an "A" over the summer as a sign of leadership, the young Islanders center went out and had a career season, finishing with 31 goals and 50 assists.
The Islanders may be a couple seasons away from contending, but with Tavares leading the way, New York's other team is in good hands with a future superstar.
Tavares' rise into the final four of the NHL 13 cover vote is a surprise, but it shows how popular he has become. The fifth seed defeated Edmonton's Jordan Eberle in the first round and scored and even bigger victory, upsetting Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk in second round—the No. 1 seed.
Tavares has a great chance of beating out Pekka Rinne to advance to the finals, but will have a difficult time edging out either Evgeni Malkin or Claude Giroux.
Chances of winning: Puncher's chance
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Hart Trophy finalist Evgeni Malkin enjoyed his finest season to date, tallying 50 goals and 59 assists for 109 points—the only player to eclipse the century mark this season and most by any forward.
His sensational regular season translated into the playoffs, scoring eight points in six games, but in a losing effort against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Malkin entered the voting tournament ranked No. 3 and defeated fellow Hart finalist Steven Stamkos in the first round, before defeating Flyers winger Scott Hartnell in the second.
Facing another Flyer in Giroux in the semis, Malkin has a great chance of advancing to the final. It will all depend on what side of the Pennsylvania fence you're on.
Chances of winning: Favorable
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
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Like fellow Atlantic Division player John Tavares, Claude Giroux is a rising star in the NHL, one who enjoyed his finest season to date in 2011-2012.
Still just 24 years old, the Flyers center tallied 28 goals and 65 assists for 93 points—third best in the NHL among skaters—and just missed out on a chance for a Hart Trophy nomination.
Giroux exploded in the playoffs, notching 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 10 games before losing to the New Jersey Devils in the conference semifinals, and looks primed to have an even better 2012-2013 campaign.
Ranked No. 1 before voting started, Giroux beat out Montreal's P.K. Subban and Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar to make it to Round 3 against Evgeni Malkin.
Given his appearance on HBO 24/7 for the Winter Classic this season and his increasing popularity, Claude Giroux has to be the favorite to win the vote to be on the cover of NHL 13.
Chances of winning: The odds-on favorite