NHL News and Rumors: Hart Trophy Watch for the Leading MVP Candidates

Erik PaulCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2011

NHL News and Rumors: Hart Trophy Watch for the Leading MVP Candidates

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    We're getting close to the end of the regular season and we have one of the most wide-open Hart Trophy races in recent memory.

    Since Sidney Crosby's injury on January 1, a number of legitimate candidates have emerged as Hart Trophy threats, including a surprising number of goalies.

    Here are the top-10 players who are chasing the Hart.

     

     

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Honorable Mention: Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils

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    Please have a laugh about this one, but read the reasoning for it.

    Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils' rebirths are indisputably linked.

    In the first 41 games, the Devils were 10-29-2 and sat last in the league. Kovalchuk had 21 points and he was a minus-30.

    In the last 24 games, the Devils are 20-2-2 and within eight points of a playoff spot. Kovalchuk has 27 points and he is a plus-13.

    If the Devils can somehow make the playoffs, Kovalchuk will merit some Hart Trophy consideration.

10. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

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    Nicklas Lidstrom, the ageless wonder, is at it again this season.

    He leads all defensemen in points and he held the Red Wings together through an onslaught of injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Danny Cleary, Brian Rafalski, Valterri Filppula, Tomas Holmstrom and others.

    Lidstrom's steadying presence has been crucial in the Wings remaining near the top of the Western Conference.

9. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

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    Carey Price is in the top 10 in the NHL in every major statistical category for goaltenders, including leading the league in wins.

    Price has the Montreal Canadiens reasonably safely locked into a playoff spot despite season-ending injuries to key defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges.

    If the Canadiens had traded Price during the offseason, as many insisted they should have, they probably wouldn't be in a playoff spot.

8. Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Yandle is a huge part of why the Coyotes currently sit sixth in the Western Conference.

    The 24-year-old defenseman is tied with Nick Lidstrom for the scoring lead among defensemen. He sits fifth in the league in assists and he also leads the Phoenix Coyotes in scoring.

7. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins' highest-scoring player who has played in the last two months is defenseman Kris Letang with 46 points.

    The Pens have averaged less than 2.2 goals per game since superstar Sidney Crosby was injured, but the Pens are still in fourth place in the league.

    This is mainly due to the incredible play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who is having the best season of his career.

    Fleury has carried the Penguins and he will have to keep doing so if the Penguins are going to go far in the playoffs.

6. Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

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    Calgary captain Jarome Iginla has been remarkable throughout the Flames' recent rise to playoff contention.

    Iginla has 36 points in 34 games since Christmas and he has led the Flames up from 14th place to fifth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

    After struggling to start the season, Iggy is once again in the top 10 in the league in both goals and points and just scored his 30th goal for the 10th-straight season.

5. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

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    Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators isn't being talked about as a Hart Trophy candidate but he should be.

    Rinne's spectacular play has the Predators only one point out of a playoff spot despite not having a single player with 20 goals or 40 points.

    Rinne is second in the league in both goals-against average and save percentage.

4. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The league's leading goal scorer by a margin of seven is definitely a Hart Trophy candidate.

    Stamkos had his Tampa Bay Lightning leading the Southeast Division for most of the season and he's been battling Daniel Sedin for the overall-scoring lead.

    What could hurt Stamkos' chance for the Hart is that his linemate, Martin St. Louis, has been arguably as valuable as Stamkos.

3. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

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    The league's leading point-getter is almost a surefire Hart Trophy finalist.

    After watching brother Henrik Sedin win the Hart Trophy last season, Daniel Sedin has stepped up and currently sits second in goals and first in points.

    Daniel is second in the league in points per game, behind only Sidney Crosby, and he is arguably the best player on the best team in the league.

    What could hurt Daniel Sedin is the almost equally-impressive performances of teammates Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo, as it's hard to say one of them is definitively the most valuable to this team.

2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Jonathan "Captain Serious" Toews has been a dominant force since the All-Star break and he might be the best all-around player in the whole league right now.

    Toews has carried over his Conn Smythe-winning performance from last season and he has been phenomenal this season.

    Toews does everything well from scoring to penalty-killing, defense to faceoffs and passing to takeaways.

    Toews is in the top 10 in league scoring for the first time in his career and he is making a very strong case for the Hart Trophy.

1. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

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    Tim Thomas leads all goalies by a wide margin in both goals-against average and save percentage and he has unquestionably been the best goalie in the league this year.

    Thomas is a crucial part of the Bruins being second in the league in goal differential at plus-47 and his strong play has made the Bruins a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

    Here's what really makes Thomas the best Hart Trophy candidate so far:

    Bruins record when Thomas doesn't play: 9-11-1.

    Bruins record when Thomas plays: 29-8-7.

     

     

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