Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis named Hart Trophy finalists; Who wins?

There are plenty of awards to shoot for in the NHL, but the Hart Trophy is easily the biggest. It’s the league’s MVP award, so reading its list of winners is a quick guide to the players who sat atop the NHL in a given season.

The NHL announced the top three nominees for the 2010-11 season: Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry, Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s a quick rundown of their superlative seasons.

Perry: No doubt about it, Perry had the hottest second half of any player in the NHL, scoring 19 goals in his final 16 games. The divisive Ducks winger was the only person to reach the 50-goal plateau this season, earning himself the Maurice Richard Trophy in the process. One interesting category that sets him apart from Daniel Sedin – his main competition for the MVP trophy – is time on ice. Perry was second among forwards with an average of 22:18 minutes on ice, including 1:38 of shorthanded time. That’s almost four more minutes per game than Sedin’s 18:38 total and six seconds of shorthanded time per game.

If you judge value by how much a player is used, Perry wins that margin by a substantial amount.

Sedin: Perry has his pluses, but Sedin’s +30 was the second highest plus/minus total among NHL forwards. He also lead the NHL in the all-important points category, taking home the Art Ross Trophy with 104 points (five more than St. Louis and six more than Perry). He was also the best player on the best team in the NHL. The question is: will voters allow him to match his twin Henrik Sedin, who won the Hart last season (as you can see from this post’s main photo, by the way)?

St. Louis: The Lightning’s pint-sized star is the dark horse of this race, but that shouldn’t camouflage another outstanding season by St. Louis. He finished second in the league in scoring with 99 points, getting stronger while his much-ballyhooed linemate Steven Stamkos sagged. That’s the thing about St. Louis, though. While Tampa Bay hits peaks and valleys, he’s almost always a world-class player and person.

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So now that you’re caught up to speed about the three finalists, tell us which player you think is most deserving. Should it be the polarizing (and pulverizing) force in Perry, the scoring leader in Sedin or the undersized brilliance of St. Louis? Let us know by voting in the poll and sharing your thoughts in the comments.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.