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PHT makes the case for the Hart Trophy finallists

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Aside from perhaps the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup victory that usually goes with it, there aren’t many honors bigger than the Hart Trophy. Being named the most valuable player after an 82-game season is simply an outstanding feat. In fact, it’s impressive to even be nominated.

The PHT staff makes the case for three strong candidates.

James O’Brien’s case for Corey Perry:

Many people arguing for Perry will fixate on his notable achievement of being the only player to score 50 goals in the 2010-11 season. The other side will point out that both Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis scored more overall points. Some might even dock Perry a vote or two because he’s not exactly the most well-liked player in the league.

With the biggest numbers being so close, I think it’s best to break a virtual tie by looking at how often a player was called upon. Perry averaged 22:18 minutes per game, second only to Ilya Kovalchuk (St. Louis averaged 20:58 while Sedin averaged just 18:33). Most impressively, Perry averaged 1:38 of shorthanded time per game to 27 seconds for St. Louis and six seconds for Sedin.

In other words, Perry wasn’t just carrying the Ducks into the playoffs with his torrid second half scoring run. He was also called upon to kill penalties, agitate opponents and play a physical game. Perry might not be the most popular player in the NHL, but he was the most valuable player of the 2010-11 season.

Joe Yerdon’s case for Daniel Sedin:

I’m guessing that saying, “Well his brother won it last year,”  won’t fly as an excuse, right? All right then.

Daniel’s case for the Hart is pretty easy to make. He was the top point scorer in the league on the best team in the regular season. Sure, he had Henrik there side by side with him helping to set him up for his 41 goals this season, good for a fourth place tie with teammate Ryan Kesler in the NHL. Daniel did his fair share of dishing it out too with 63 assists, good for third in the league.

Daniel’s efforts through the regular season made it so that some wondered about how both he and his brother were finding ways to one-up the other when it comes to racking up the points. Considering the MVP season Henrik had last year, that’s as good of a compliment as you’ll find for how Daniel did this year.

Matt Reitz’s case for Martin St. Louis:

We hear all the time about players who make their teammates better—and no one displays that better than Martin St. Louis. Early in the year, it was St. Louis’ teammate Steven Stamkos who was getting most of the accolades; but as the season went on, it was clear that St. Louis is the man that made Tampa Bay’s potent offense go. By the time the season ended, he was second in the league with 68 assists and 99 points. The 31 goals weren’t too shabby either.

The Hart is supposed to be the player who is most important to his team. From that perspective, it’s difficult to find another player around the league who matches up with St. Louis. He has proven that he can produce with any number of linemmates on the ice—yet when he’s put another high skilled player, he has the ability to catapult his teammate to stardom. While Stamkos got off to a great start, one of the reasons he was so productive was because St. Louis was setting him up every game. But when Stamkos stopped scoring, it was St. Louis who helped lead the Lightning to the 5th seed in the East.

No player is more important to his team, because no player in the league has the ability to make his teammates better like St. Louis.


Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.