Last week, the three finalists for the Hart Trophy, the NHL's regular season MVP, were chosen.
Calgary's Jarome Iginla will get the short end of the stick in this nomination, but don't discount the tremendous year that he had. 50 goals and 98 points helped put his Calgary Flames in the seventh spot in the West.
He plays with an edge and is just as likely to fight as he is to hit twine. That should tell you how good the other candidates are when a season like Iginla's is an afterthought.
Washington's high-flying Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh sophomore stud Evgeni Malkin are the other two finalists and the debate could get heated as June approaches.
Ovechkin set the hockey world ablaze this year with his raucous play and zest for goals, loving to score so much that even his 65 markers this year didn't seem like enough.
A human pinball with skates, Ovechkin erupted to help lift Washington to the Southeast division title and the third seed in the East. Ovechkin has also helped raise the play of young star Nicklas Backstrom, helping the young Swede gain some confidence as the year forged on.
Malkin, nicknamed "Geno," finished second in scoring with 106 to Ovechkin's 112.
hen Sidney Crosby went down for six weeks with an ankle injury, questions loomed in Steel Town. Can they survive without Sid? Who will pick up the slack?
Geno answered the latter with authority. In the 28 games that entailed Crosby's absence, Malkin responded with 46 points and kept the Penguins chugging right along, eventually helping the team secure the second seed and the Atlantic division title.
So, who's the MVP?
As close as this may seem on paper, it will be that close in the voting.
While, true, Malkin did help carry the Pens, along with Ty Conklin, in Crosby's absence, he only had to do it for 28 games.
Ovechkin helped carry a far less talented team to a division crown and accounted for the most goals ever scored by a left winger. Ovechkin is also the darling of the hockey world thanks to his charisma and the immense joy he displays just playing the game.
Malkin may be the better overall offensive player and it could be argued that Ovechkin scores as much as he does because he collects shots by the basket full (446 this season), but the numbers don't lie.
Ovechkin in a relatively tight race with Malkin. This sets up a potentially wonderful three-way race for next year between Malkin, Ovechkin, and Crosby.
Almost feels like the days of Messier, Lemieux, and Gretzky again.