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The Bear Cave


June 20, 2009 9:29 AM

Ovechkin Smokes Malkin for Hart Trophy

Every spring, one of the most anticipated trophies given out at the NHL Awards Show is the Hart Trophy. While the Stanley Cup is easily the most coveted trophy in the league, the Hart Trophy is the most coveted individual trophy, as it designates who the best player was during a given season.

The anticipation was felt on Thursday, as Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Datsyuk waited to see who would receive the honor. Prior to the show, I gave my predictions on who I thought would win each award. With the Hart Trophy, I joined most of the continent by thinking that the race would be a tight one between Ovechkin and Malkin. I did pick Ovechkin correctly, but the margin of victory was far from close. A grand total of 133 first-place votes were handed out for the league's MVP trophy. Ovechkin took home 115 of those, easily beating out Malkin's 12 for the victory. Compare that number to Zdeno Chara's 68-50 win over Mike Green for the Norris Trophy, and there should certainly be some element of surprise.

Despite the lopsided win, there has been some debate over who should have won the award. Looking back in history, Ovechkin is the first skater since Joe Sakic in 2001 to win the Hart Trophy without leading the league in scoring. Oddly enough, a Pittsburgh Penguin also won the scoring title that year, with Jaromir Jagr's 121 points edging out Sakic's 118. Jose Theodore also took home the league's MVP in 2002, when Jarome Iginla led the way with 96 points.

So, why Ovechkin? My original reason for selecting him prior to the ceremony was because of his ability to light the lamp. In baseball, they say that chicks did the long ball, and although it is mainly men that vote for this honor, I think that partially applies here. Washington's superstar lit the lamp 56 times in 79 games this season, running away with the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy by ten goals over Philadelphia's Jeff Carter. Although Sakic fell five goals short of Pavel Bure in 2001, goals were also a major part of his game, as he found the back of the net 54 times.

As impressive as 56 tallies sounds, there are people who will say that there is no wonder Ovechkin reached it, based on the amount of shots he takes. Well, pull up the shots on goal statistics, and that fact is completely true. Eric Staal finished in second place this season, directing 372 shots on goal. The Great Eight destroyed that number, finding either the net or a netminder on 528 different occasions. For those keeping track, yes, that is a record. Ovechkin had the old record as well, putting 446 pucks on goal one season earlier. Just for fun, let's note that Sidney Crosby has 938 shots in four seasons - less than half of Ovechkin's total from this year. Simply put, 528 is a ridiculous number.

Keeping those two aspects in the back of my mind, my thought process then went to value. Don't get me wrong, statistics are wonderful, but the Hart Trophy is given to the player deemed to be the most valuable to his team. Needless to say, this is also a rather challenging topic.

First, you have Ovechkin. Regardless of how many shots he takes and how many goals he scores, one has to believe that the Washington Capitals would be a different team without him in the lineup. This isn't to take anything away from the likes of Mike Green, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom, as I still believe that the Capitals will be a force for years to come with the talent they have developed in Hershey. However, we are talking about Ovechkin, and missing him would certainly leave a void.

Next, I looked at Malkin. The difficult thing for Malkin is that he plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, hockey is a team game and he is certainly enjoying the glory of the Stanley Cup, but playing on a team like that will plague him in terms of individual credit. Sidney Crosby is the face of the league, and the depth that the Penguins had this year with the likes of Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal, and Maxime Talbot, to name a few, was incredible. If one were to take Malkin out of the Pittsburgh lineup, there would likely be a dip, but it wouldn't be as significant as Washington's without Ovechkin. Clearly, the supporting casts have an impact.

With that in mind, my final piece of analysis was the hardest. What if the two were to switch sides? Put Ovechkin on the Penguins and put Malkin on the Capitals. Obviously, there isn't a concrete answer to this, as chemistry is a major factor, and there isn't really a way to know for sure. Ovechkin would have to swallow part of his pride to play with Crosby and company, while Malkin would have to adjust to being the main focus of opposing defenses. I do believe that their numbers would be similar, but the team results are tough to judge.

So, where does that leave us? Ovechkin and the Capitals have an MVP. Malkin and the Penguins have a Stanley Cup. According to multiple reports during the season, the two players have developed a rivalry, although that clearly didn't show during All-Star Weekend in Montreal. The two fan bases don't particularly care for one another. That all adds up to all eyes focusing on Washington and Pittsburgh, hoping for another thrilling playoff series again next year!

With the awards finished, the focus now becomes the NHL Draft, which takes place on Friday in Montreal. Stay tuned for thoughts and predictions regarding the Boston Bruins and the NHL.

In case you missed it, here's how the voting turned out on Thursday. I have listed the players in the order that they finished. Their teams are inside of the parentheses. The numbers are the total points they earned based on the votes, followed by how many votes they got for first through fifth place.

Hart Trophy:
Alexander Ovechkin (Washington)- 1264 (115, 14, 2, 2, 0)
Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh)- 787 (12, 71, 27, 9, 8)
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit)- 404 (4, 14, 38, 19, 19)

Norris Trophy:
Zdeno Chara (Boston)- 1034 (68, 36, 18, 4, 0)
Mike Green (Washington)- 982 (50, 53, 19, 4, 4)
Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit)- 733 (14, 34, 58, 19, 8)

Vezina Trophy:
Tim Thomas (Boston)- 127 (22, 5, 2)
Steve Mason (Columbus)- 33 (3, 4, 6)
Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota)- 31 (1, 8, 2)

Jack Adams Award:

Claude Julien (Boston)- 224 (35, 14, 7)
Andy Murray (St. Louis)- 135 (15, 17, 9)
Todd McLellan (San Jose)- 98 (9, 14, 11)

Calder Trophy:
Steve Mason (Columbus)- 1268 (121, 6, 2, 2, 0)
Bobby Ryan (Anaheim)- 829 (9, 84, 24, 9, 4)
Kris Versteeg (Chicago)- 323 (1, 8, 26, 35, 22)

Lady Byng Trophy:
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit)- 933 (64, 35, 4, 7, 7)
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay)- 662 (30, 22, 36, 7, 7)
Zach Parise (New Jersey)- 521 (15, 30, 23, 14, 4)

Selke Trophy:
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit)- 945 (55, 48, 8, 5, 4)
Mike Richards (Philadelphia)- 942 (61, 42, 6, 2, 2)
Ryan Kesler (Vancouver)- 290 (1, 9, 33, 14, 10)

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