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NHL Awards: Leading Candidates for 2013 Hart Trophy in Final Week of Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2013

NHL Awards: Leading Candidates for 2013 Hart Trophy in Final Week of Season

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    The regular season is about to end.

    In one more week, the shortened NHL regular season will come to a close and playoff matchups will be the topic du jour.

    But with a week left, teams are still battling for playoff spots and positioning.

    The season has been defined by explosive and powerful individual performances. Sidney Crosby dominated for the first three months and would have been a hands-down MVP front-runner had he not suffered a broken jaw after getting hit with a deflected slap shot.

    Players like Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews and Sergei Bobrovsky have also throw their names into the mix.

    Here's our look at the top Hart Trophy candidates with one week to go in the season.

6. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

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    The story was as shocking as it was dramatic. The Anaheim Ducks were an afterthought in 2011-12 who didn't come within dreaming distance of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    When the 2013 season finally started, the Ducks were a transformed team. They skated with a purpose, used their size to assert themselves and got timely scoring and consistent goaltending.

    The Ducks chased the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the Western Conference and will almost certainly end up a clear No. 2.

    Much of that is due to the excellence and leadership of Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks' creative center has scored 14 goals and 32 assists this season, and he is also plus-13 this season. He is connecting on 14.9 percent of his shots.

    When the Ducks were playing their best hockey, it was Getzlaf's pinpoint passes that were leading to first-class scoring opportunities.

    Getzlaf has plenty of talent in Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, along with ancient warriors Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. However, when the Ducks need a big play, Getzlaf is almost always in the middle of the action.

5. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    There have been a lot of shocking developments in the NHL. The rise of the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference. A shocking climb by the Montreal Canadiens. The Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04.

    However, is there anything more surprising than the play of the Columbus Blue Jackets? The Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL last year, and they hired maven John Davidson to oversee the entire operation and rebuild the team from the ground up.

    The Blue Jackets have shocked the world and are in contention for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. With less than a week to go in the regular season, Columbus and the Minnesota Wild are tied for seventh place, three points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.

    Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been simply spectacular for the team. He has a 19-11-6 record, along with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Bobrovsky has also authored four shutouts.

    More than the numbers, Bobrovsky makes the key save at the big moment. He's the primary reason the Blue Jackets have an excellent chance at earning their second playoff berth ever, and he is worthy of Hart Trophy consideration.

4. John Tavares, New York Islanders

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    It's not difficult to understand how the overlooked New York Islanders have become a likely playoff team.

    They have followed the lead of John Tavares since the start of the season.

    Early in the year, Tavares was the only Islander player who was likely to cause problems for opponents. As the season has progressed, his teammates have followed his lead.

    Not only are the Islanders one of the most improved teams in the league, they will be a tough out in the playoffs.

    Tavares has become a threat every time he steps on the ice. He has scored 26 goals and added 19 assists.

    Head coach Jack Capuano plays him in every crucial situation. Tavares is playing 20:43 per game. He has shown the ability to score big goals at key moments, and the Islanders have become a legitimate threat because he has turned into one of the best players in the league.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    What a turnaround for Alex Ovechkin.

    At the beginning of the season, the Washington Capitals were a last-place team and Alex Ovechkin was a shell of what he had been in the early years of his career.

    It seemed fairly obvious that Ovechkin was no longer a superstar. He appeared to be going through the motions, and it seemed like he was a financial albatross around the neck of Washington owner Ted Leonsis.

    It turned out that Ovechkin had not suddenly lost his ability. He was just dormant for a while. Once he got started, he became spectacular again.

    Ovechkin has scored a league-leading 30 goals and 21 assists. Sixteen of his goals have come on the power play.

    As Ovechkin has stepped up, his team has improved dramatically. The Caps are in first place in the Southeast Division, and if they can hold on to that position, they will become the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Ovechkin and his vicious shot have helped the Caps become a glamour franchise once again.

2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Sidney Crosby was having a spectacular run of it in the 2013 regular season until March 30.

    That's when his jaw got broken by a deflected slap shot.

    He has not played a game since then, but his Pittsburgh Penguins have remained the dominant team in the Eastern Conference.

    Crosby may not play again until the start of the playoffs. If that's the case, he will have played 36 of 48 games—75 percent of the season—and that may turn off a number of Hart Trophy voters.

    Still, Crosby's production has been spectacular this year. He had 15 goals and 41 assists before his injury, and he was a remarkable plus-26 for the season.

    Crosby led the Penguins to a 15-game winning streak and has the ability to lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup if he can get back in the lineup and stay healthy.

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks have been the best team in the NHL, and Jonathan Toews is the best player on the team.

    Toews is not a spectacular scorer. He is a solid scorer who has netted 21 goals and 25 assists. He is also a wondrous plus-27 for the season. Head coach Joel Quenneville uses him to kill penalties and on power plays.

    Toews will play in all situations. He is one of the best defensive players in the league, he dominates in the faceoff circle (60.5 percent) and will go into the dirty areas so he can create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

    Toews' indomitable winning attitude is the key reason the Blackhawks have become the best regular-season team in the league.

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