Sidney Crosby will win the Hart Trophy this season unless one of the following events occurs in the next two months:
1) Upon watching his first Harry Potter movie, Crosby is swept into a whirlwind of fantasy from which he can’t escape. He cuts his hair short, begins wearing glasses and tells everyone he’s attending Hogwarts in the fall. After going missing for several days, he is found sleeping on a train platform, a hockey stick carved down into a wand lying beside him. He spends the rest of the season in an asylum.
2) Crosby suffers a season-ending injury.
3) Voters lose their minds and pick someone else who is objectively not as good or valuable as Crosby.
OK, so the second one is possible. But barring that, Crosby should be a no-brainer, easy-as-pie decision for PHWA voters who will decide on the league’s most valuable player.
Yet as we move past the halfway point of the season, people are overthinking the award and actually choosing people besides Crosby to win it. Could the third option really be a viable one?
Over at The Hockey News, Rory Boylen handed the halfway Hart out to Ryan Getzalf of the Anaheim Ducks. CBS Sports' Brian Stubits thinks the race between Crosby and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks is too close to call. Mike Brophy and Rob Pizzo of Hockey Night, debated Getzlaf's worthiness for the Hart last week and cited how East Coast bias could hurt him.
(Side note: Why do people on the East Coast get guff for allegedly being asleep when West Coast games are played, but no one wonders how West Coast people watch East Coast games when everyone is at work while those games are played?)
Back to the Hart "race" and "discussion." Let's all take a deep breath and let ourselves be OK with the idea that some decisions in life are easy. "Would you like to upgrade to first class free of charge?" "Would you like fries with that?" "Who is the Hart Trophy winner at this point of the season?"
Yes, yes and Sidney Crosby are the answers.
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There is that debate that hovers over the Hart Trophy every year—does it go to the most valuable player on one's team, or does it go to the best player in the league?
That's the beauty of the 2013-14 season. The answer to both of those of those questions is Crosby.
Let's deal with the latter first—Crosby is the best player in hockey. Through 47 games, he leads the league in points with 67, which is 11 more than the next-closest competitors. He's tied for second in goals with 25 and second in assists with 42.
You can look at advanced stats, fancy stats, remedial stats or regular old stats, and there is no one better than Crosby.
As for the idea of value to his team, he makes everyone around him better. Eric T. over at SB Nation broke down what happens when someone plays significant minutes with Crosby, and everyone saw their scoring rates jump. That's not including the fact that Crosby has turned Chris Kunitz, an otherwise unexceptional player, into an Olympian.
Perhaps you're wondering how Crosby can win it when he plays with the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang, offensively gifted players who don't necessarily need Crosby to thrive. That's true, but have you noticed how many games the Pittsburgh Penguins have had to play without their best players?
Neal has missed 20 games (although five were because of a suspension for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand). Letang has missed 19 games. Malkin has missed 11 games. Pascal Dupuis is out for the season and has already missed eight games.
Even with all those key losses, the Penguins are scoring 3.15 goals per game, fourth-most in the NHL.
That speaks nothing of the losses of Brooks Orpik (eight games), Rob Scuderi (29 games) and Paul Martin (24 games) along the blue line.
According to Nathan Currier of ManGamesLost.com, the Penguins are the most injury-riddled team in the NHL. They've lost 279 man games to injury, 51 more than the next-closest team, the Ducks.
On top of all the individual and statistical success in the face of devastating injuries to teammates, the Penguins are leading the East with a 33-12-2 record and 68 points.
In the business of sports writing, everyone is seeking out an interesting, unique angle. But sometimes, especially in the case of Sidney Crosby and his Hart candidacy, it's OK to take the easy way out—especially when it's the smart way.
Here are some stray thoughts about hockey:
•Shaquille O’Neal is a Newark, N.J., native and was at Prudential Center on Saturday for the Panthers-Devils contest. The Internet was abuzz as he dropped the ceremonial puck before the game wearing an Alexei Ponikarovsky jersey that appeared to be painted on his body. It was an especially strange choice seeing as how Ponikarovsky played 63 games for the Devils and is no longer with the club.
So why was a Ponikarovsky jersey chosen for Shaq? It turns out it was a last-minute wardrobe adjustment before he took the ice.
Chris Georgetti sang the anthem that night, and his brother, Mike Georgetti, was down at ice level. Mike lent Shaq his jersey for the occasion, and the rest is history. This photo from Mike’s Twitter feed gives you an idea of why the jersey fit like it did.
•It’s time to update our jokes about the worst division in the NHL, because statistically speaking, it’s no longer the Metropolitan.
The Atlantic is now the worst division hockey.
The Metropolitan has 411 points in 376 games, an average of 1.093 per game. The Atlantic has 402 points in 372 games, good for 1.080 per game.
The swing has occurred as the Metro teams behind the Penguins have been surging. The Washington Capitals (3-2-4), New York Rangers (8-3-1), the Flyers (8-3-0), Columbus Blue Jackets (8-3-0), Carolina Hurricanes (5-3-0) and New York Islanders (8-4-0) have been playing outstanding the past few weeks, shifting the balance of power in the East toward the Metro.
(If you’d like to ask a question for the weekly mailbag, you can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, fire your query at me via Twitter at @DaveLozo or leave a question in the comments section for next week.)
Who are the Bruins looking at to replace Seidenberg? Mark Stuart?
I think the Bruins are going to look in-house for his replacement at first, and they might not necessarily need to add someone via trade. The Bruins have some pretty good depth along the blue line, and there may not be better options in the trade market.
If everyone is healthy (besides Seidenberg), a group of Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug can be very formidable. They were able to hold the San Jose Sharks to zero goals and 26 shots on Saturday with Boychuk away for the birth of his twin daughters and rookie Kevan Miller in his place.
As long as this group shows general manager Peter Chiarelli it can handle things in Seidenberg’s absence, the Bruins won’t need to make a big move to replace him.
As of today, which April 6th game will you be missing to watch the Game of Thrones premiere?
I hadn’t even considered this when learning Season 4 of Game of Thrones would debut April 6, so thank you for bringing this to my attention. Thankfully, there are zero local teams at home that night, so I can set my own TV-watching agenda.
Although, the St. Louis Blues play the Chicago Blackhawks that night, and I feel that will be an important game in the West race. Wonderfully, it starts at 7:30 and will be over by the time GOT starts, so everything is coming up Lozo on April 6.
Do you think the CBJ run stays? Or lightning in a bottle?
I tend to believe they are the real deal. I had them as a playoff team before the season, and I’m not ready to abandon that prediction like some of my others, like the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets will make the playoffs, and the Ducks will miss.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jackets are two points out of a playoff spot with 36 games remaining, so clearly they are still in the mix. Their possession numbers are slightly below average, but they have played most of the season without Nathan Horton and Marian Gaborik, two players who are historically good at driving possession.
Horton is back and playing well, while Gaborik could be back right before the Olympics. Sergei Bobrovsky missed nearly a month with a groin injury but has been lights out since returning three games ago.
The Blue Jackets closed strong and narrowly missed the playoffs in the West last year. There’s no reason to think they can’t get over the hump in the weaker East.
what the is up with the Devils’ shoot out failure?
The Devils have been staggeringly bad in the shootout this season. They are 0-7 in the breakaway contest, and if they miss the playoffs this season, it will likely be because of their shootout ineptitude. They’re not scoring, and they're not making saves.
Reid Boucher has the Devils’ lone shootout goal in 23 attempts. Cory Schneider has allowed five goals on 11 shots; Martin Brodeur has given up four goals on 11 shots. Both Brodeur and Schneider are below average in shootout save percentage.
Brodeur has been historically good in shootouts, but he struggled last season and is now 41 years old. Schneider, however, is far below his career average in the shootout.
The big issue is the scoring. Some of it has to do with Ilya Kovalchuk “retiring” after last season. He had 13 goals in his final 20 shootout attempts with the Devils.
Patrik Elias scored on 40 percent of his chances the past two years, but he’s 0-of-4 and has missed three shootouts with injuries. Damien Brunner went 2-of-7 as a rookie, but is 0-of-2 this season and has also missed time with injuries and as a healthy scratch.
Some of it is poor execution, some of it is declining skills and some of it is the players being used due to various injuries and Kovalchuk's departure. For a team that plays as many low-scoring games as the Devils, failure in the shootout could be catastrophic.