With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, the NHL named its three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the league's most valuable player. Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby is leading the way.
According to NHL.com, Crosby will be contested by Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf and Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux.
The nominations don't come as a particularly big surprise since Crosby, Getzlaf and Giroux were the top three scorers in the league during the 2013-14 regular season.
There is no question that Crosby is the overwhelming favorite as the NHL's only 100-point scorer with 104 points. Crosby also played in 80 games this season, which is notable due to the fact that he has struggled to stay healthy in recent years.
As seen in this tweet courtesy of the Pens' official Twitter account, the team is proud of their captain's nomination:
The same can be said for the Flyers in relation to Giroux as the team put together this collection of his accomplishments:
Giroux and his teammates were bounced from the first round of the playoffs by the New York Rangers, but that won't have any impact on his chances for a regular-season award like the Hart Trophy.
The consensus seems to be that Crosby will run away with his second Hart Trophy, but Getzlaf can potentially give him a run for his money.
Who will win the 2013-14 Hart Memorial Trophy?
Along with 87 points and a plus-28 rating, Getzlaf was truly the heart and soul of the Ducks all season long. He was a constant physical presence, and he brought things to the table that Crosby and Giroux simply can't.
It's difficult to argue with the three nominations, but Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy endorsed goalie Semyon Varlamov for the award late in the regular season, per Scott Ward of Avalanche.com.
"He's giving us a chance to win, but it's more now than just a chance to win," Roy said. "He's a difference-maker right now. He's pretty impressive. In my opinion right now, he should be a candidate for the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP). That's as high as I think of him right now."
Among those who agree with that assessment is Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, who had Varlamov just behind Crosby on his ballot:
Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf and Claude Giroux are the Hart Trophy finalists. I had 1. Crosby, 2. Varlamov, 3. Getzlaf, 4. Giroux, 5. Bishop.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) May 1, 2014
There are always perceived snubs, and Varlamov is the most glaring among them. In all reality, though, this is Crosby's award to win.
The fact that Crosby is the NHL's poster boy gives him a leg up on the competition, especially considering how good his numbers were. Reaching 100 points in today's game is a major accomplishment, and Crosby's ability to do that carries plenty of weight.
If the Hart Trophy took playoff performances into account, then Getzlaf would be a major threat, but that isn't the case. Expect Crosby to triumph in a landslide after an impressive campaign.
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