NHL: 2009-2010 Hart Trophy Candidates
The NHL regular season is coming to a close.
Even with more hockey to be played, the voters for the Hart Memorial Trophy have, in all likelihood, made up their minds as to who they will vote for.
The voting works as such: Each voter ranks their top five players on a 10-7-5-3-1 scale. The top three vote getters attend the NHL awards ceremony as the finalists where one is named the winner.
I will assume the role of a voter and give my top five players most worthy of the MVP for the 2009-2010 regular season.
5. Henrik Sedin, Canucks (1 point)
He is in position to win the Art Ross Trophy for the most points in the regular season, and he did it without his brother Daniel for 19 games.
He is among the top five in plus/minus rating, and his team is going to finish top three in the Western Conference.
With all this being said, Sedin does not crack my top three finalists for the Hart. While no one can deny his talent and ability to put the puck on a platter for the guys around him, he lacks the sort of game-breaking ability of a Crosby or Ovechkin. For that, he lands at the five spot on my list.
Henrik has been great this year, but he is not elite.
4. Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals (3 points)
Ovechkin is the most explosive hockey player in the world and is going for his third consecutive Hart Trophy. He is one goal behind Sidney Crosby in the race for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy (which would be his third in a row) and four points behind Henrik Sedin for the Art Ross Trophy (which would be the second of his career).
His numbers are comparable to his last year's statistics when he won the Hart. He is averaging more points per game (1.50 this year compared to 1.39 last year) and only slightly less goals per game (.68 this year compared to .71 last year).
He has an astounding plus-41 plus/minus rating and is the leader of the best team in the NHL.
Despite all of this, Ovechkin still only lands at fourth on my list of Hart candidates.
Even though he continues to put up impressive numbers, Washington hasn't had to rely on him this year as much as years past. The Capitals have proven the ability to win without Ovechkin this year, rendering his MVP hopes slim.
3. Sidney Crosby, Penguins (5 points)
Sidney Crosby barely edges Alexander Ovechkin for the invite to the NHL awards ceremony.
After Crosby's first four seasons in the NHL there were two flaws in his game: 1) his ineffectiveness in the face-off circle, and 2) his tendency to look pass first in situations where he could be putting the puck on net.
This year, he is 10th in the league in faceoff percentage, has won more faceoffs than any player in the NHL, and is leading the league in goals.
Needless to say, he wants to be the best.
Throughout this season, Crosby has been the most well-rounded player in the NHL. On a team plagued with inconsistency from players at all positions, Crosby continues to bring it every night. He has risen to the occasion all year for his team, and without him, the Pens are clawing for a playoff spot in the East.
2. Ryan Miller, Sabres (7 points)
Most people have Miller as their Hart winner and it is hard to argue against them. He has led a team of mediocre talent to the top of the Northeast Division and has the Sabres positioned for either a two or a three seed in the East.
His numbers have been amazing all year. He ranks second in save percentage (.928) and third in goals against average (2.23). He has five shutouts and 39 wins, both of which tie him for third in the league.
Considering all of this, I was tempted to pick Miller for the Hart, but after looking closer I had to give it to another goalie...
1. Ilya Bryzgalov, Coyotes (10 points)
And the winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy for the 2009-2010 NHL regular season is...Ilya Bryzgalov.
Like Miller, Bryzgalov has taken nobody expected much from and turned them into a bonafide cup contender. The Coyotes rank fourth in the Western Conference and have the fourth most points in the NHL behind Ilya.
His stats are not as impressive as Miller's.
He ranks seventh in the league in save percentage (.920) and is sixth in the league in goals against average (2.30). Bryzgalov is, however, tied for first in the NHL in shutouts with eight and is tied for second in wins with 41.
What separates Bryzgalov from Miller is that, despite conventional wisdom, his team relies on him more.
The Coyotes rank 25th in goals per game (2.56), while Miller's Sabres rank 11th (2.81). Phoenix is the lowest scoring team out of any of the sixteen teams teams currently holding playoff spots other than Boston, yet they still remain one of the top teams in the highly competitive West.
Despite most people's East coast bias, it is Ilya Bryzgalov who deserves the Hart Memorial Trophy over Ryan Miller by the slightest of margins.