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Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: 2011-12 Preview, Alexander Ovechkin, Daniel Sedin, Evgeni Malkin, Hart Trophy, Henrik Sedin, Jonathan Toews, NHL Awards, Steven Stamkos
Leading up to the regular season, we’ll be taking a look at some of the favorites for the major awards. Who are the top Hart Trophy candidates for the 2011-12 season?
1. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
Alex Ovechkin’s 32-goal campaign was classified as a disappointment, and rightfully so. The world’s most electrifying hockey player averaged nearly 54 goals a year since breaking into the NHL. There’s two reasons that explain Ovechkin’s down 2010-11 season. One, his shooting percentage was a career-worst .087 – that, in all likelihood, won’t happen again. Secondly, the Caps’ power play was average compared to years past, which affected Ovechkin’s production. Washington just might be the best team in the NHL this season; ‘Ovie’ is a big reason for that. Look for him to have a bounce back year and win his third MVP trophy.
2. Steven Stamkos, Lightning
At the All-Star break last year, Steven Stamkos who was then on pace for 61 goals, was viewed as a Hart Trophy front-runner. However, Stamkos hit a wall in the second half and scored just seven times in the final 31 games, ending the season with ‘just’ 45 goals. Down the stretch and in the playoffs, Stamkos learned some valuable lessons and seems primed to have a huge season in 2011-12. The Lightning will be relying on a big output from both Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. If the team sustains their success from last year, and Stamkos tops 50 goals and/or 100 points, look for him to be in the MVP discussion.
3. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has been drawing rave reviews this pre-season. Evgeni Malkin, who is coming off ACL/MCL surgery, has six points in three games and has shown signs of his old, dominant self. Since winning the Stanley Cup, he hasn’t been the same player. But reports out of Russia all summer long indicated that Malkin is determined as ever to return to top form this season. Malkin’s MVP credentials may hinge on how long Sidney Crosby sits out at the start, but that really shouldn’t matter. If ‘Geno’ carries over his pre-season dominance, he’ll certainly put up big enough numbers to garner Hart Trophy consideration.
4. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
At one point last March, Jonathan Toews found himself in the Hart conversation. The Blackhawks had just completed an impressive eight-game win streak, which was a part of Toews’ torrid 21-game stretch in which he registered 13 goals and 33 points (not to mention, four game-winners). Toews may not put up the 100-point numbers like a Stamkos, Ovechkin, or Malkin. But his dominance on both sides of the puck is invaluable to Chicago. Toews can really help himself if he surpasses the point-per-game average. When you talk about true MVP’s, Toews is on that list. He is the heart and soul of the ‘Hawks, who are set for a big season in their own right.
5. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Canucks
In 2010, Henrik Sedin won the Hart. A year later, brother Daniel was the runner-up. It’s hard not to include them in this conversation. It’s also difficult not to name one without the other. Daniel had a career-high 41 goals and 104 points in 2010-11. That came on the heels of Henrik’s team-record 112 points in 2009-10. The twins have become the most dominant duo the NHL has to offer. No matter how hard teams try to slow them down, they just can’t. The Sedins have elevated their games in the last two years to an elite level. And with some other injuries in the lineup, Vancouver will be counting on them to stay there this season.
Dark horses: Anze Kopitar, Kings; Claude Giroux, Flyers; Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
Photo credit: Getty Images
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