Tag: Hart Trophy discussion

Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk might just climb into Hart Trophy argument


As far as go-to whipping boys go, Ilya Kovalchuk provides a desirable target for critics. Let’s go over the checklist:

  • He’s not Canadian or American* (check)
  • Bloated $100 million contract (check)
  • Lack of playoff success (check)

For a good chunk of his stay in New Jersey, “underwhelming performance” was one of those bullet points, but there’s no sense making that argument anymore.

Kovalchuk scored his first hat trick as a member of the Devils tonight to trigger a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres. Such a performance makes me wonder aloud: is Kovalchuk inching his way into the Hart Trophy discussion?


In the past, the only measuring stick for his success could be found in scoring. He’s holding up his end of the bargain in that regard, as Kovalchuk has 25 goals and 56 points. Those 56 points are good for ninth overall in the NHL, but in the context of the New Jersey Devils offense, it’s even more impressive; Kovalchuk has factored into 35.4 percent of the team’s goals this season.

Increased versatility

Kovalchuk is called upon to do more than just fill the net in New Jersey, though. His 24:48 minutes per game ranks 16th among all NHL skaters and No. 1 in the forward ranks.

It’s not just “glory boy” time, either, as he’s killing penalties for more than a minute (1:10) per contest. That’s not going to get him in the running for the Selke – and teammate Zach Parise nearly doubles his PK time average with 2:10 per game – but it still shows that he’s bringing more to the table than many might expect.

Not quite there yet

If I was part of the voting process, Kovalchuk wouldn’t be in my top three. He might not even be in my top 10 right now – but that could change if he stays hot.

That probably doesn’t matter a whole lot to the Devils, though, as that $100 million deal is only looking half-crazy right now (by my estimation). Where does Kovalchuk rank on your list, though?

* – Look, I don’t like it either, but you’d be naive to believe that there aren’t some pundits who let their “nationalist” colors fly.

Video: Corey Perry hits 50 goals with hat trick, pads Hart Trophy resume

Corey Perry

The jury is still out on Corey Perry being the odds-on winner to nab the Hart Trophy, but if there was an award for the league’s second-half MVP, he would be a natural choice. Many people wondered if there would be a 50-goal scorer in the NHL this season once Sidney Crosby was injured and Steven Stamkos ran out of steam, yet Perry made sure that the 2010-11 season would include at least one.

Perry did so in convincing fashion, too, scoring his fiftieth on a hat trick goal in the second period as the Anaheim Ducks bombarded the San Jose Sharks 6-2 (more on that later tonight).

As Scott Cullen points out, Perry’s ridiculous run includes a whopping 19 goals in his last 14 games. Who knows if hitting the half-century mark in goals will be enough to woo voters to go his way against Henrik Sedin – you cannot really play the linemates game involving the Sedin twins when Perry skates with two elite forwards in Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan – but those kind of numbers definitely seem to jump out to many voters.

Either way, it’s an impressive jump in quality for a guy who already ranked among the league’s better forwards. Perry has progressed from a pest with serious goal scoring ability to a genuine force in the NHL. Watch this video clip to witness his impressive hat trick.

Corey Perry takes NHL goal scoring lead, Ducks beat Blackhawks 2-1


When Sidney Crosby went down with a concussion, Steve Stamkos rose to the top of the goal scoring ladder where he’s stayed for most of the season. That is until tonight when Corey Perry willed the Ducks to victory with a pair of third period goals giving him 44 goals on the season and taking the NHL goal scoring lead.

Perry’s two-goal game was supported with assists from Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan on both goals while Ray Emery stopped 27 shots to get Anaheim into seventh place in the West while forcing Chicago into eighth. Marian Hossa was the lone goal scorer for Chicago as they couldn’t find a way to crack through on Emery who gave Jonas Hiller a break tonight as he slowly gets back into game shape from being sat down with vertigo.

While Getzlaf is the captain of the Ducks, it’s Perry that’s forcing people to take notice of him as a potential Hart Trophy candidate with his ability to carry the team both in Getzlaf’s absence from injury earlier this year but for also picking up his play with the team back to full health.  Over the last nine  games, Perry has 11 goals and four assists. The Ducks are 7-2-0 in those games.

All right Ducks fans, feel free to start the “MVP” chants, they’re more than warranted right now. If Perry gets the Ducks into the playoffs, chances are Vancouver, Detroit, and whoever wins the Pacific won’t want any part of them in the first round. Anaheim is a very dangerous team.

Jonathan Toews’ red-hot run generates Hart Trophy attention

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

When Jonathan Toews was on top of the hockey world upon hoisting the Stanley Cup and receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy, I couldn’t help but temper the “best player in the world” talk ever so slightly.

People often take anything but boisterous praise as a statement that Player X isn’t any good, but that wasn’t the point at all. For one thing, it was difficult for me to accept the idea that Toews was on the highest rung of NHL players when his career high for points was 69. Beyond that, the Chicago Blackhawks also amassed an outrageously rich supporting cast that made it possible for Toews to simply play his world-class game without having to carry the team’s offense every night. Sure he was great, but probably not on the absolute highest level right then.

Ultimately, I ended with this point: we’ll see how great he is this season, when every team is gunning for his team and the salary cap dilutes that once-staggering depth.

For a while, it seemed like he finally met his match. The team was struggling to the point that a playoff berth was looking questionable at best (not to say they’re guaranteed to land one today) and his offensive numbers weren’t at an all-world level early on. It’s not fair to put all the blame on one player, but as the team captain, the spotlight shined the brightest on Toews.

Toews is on fire when his team needs him the most.

Yet now it appears that Toews is earning every bit of the somewhat-hasty plaudits he received last year. From his rookie year on, he’s exhibited a stunningly versatile game for such a young player, but his offensive output has never been better. After peaking at 69 points in his previous three seasons, Toews is producing his first point-per-game campaign in the NHL. He already has 28 goals and 40 assists for 68 points in 66 games so far in 2010-11.

The best part – though by no means the most surprising one – is that Toews is producing his greatest work when his team needs him the most. He scored a staggering nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in his last 11 games. The only time he didn’t score a point during that span was on March 8th, when the Florida Panthers beat the Hawks 3-2. He also received the league’s player of the month award for February, scoring 21 points in the shortest month of the year.

Toews forces himself into the Hart Trophy discussion.

Toews currently ranks ninth in the NHL with those 68 total points, but it’s that aforementioned all-around play and his lead-by-example mentality that causes many to consider him a worthy Hart Trophy candidate. (It probably doesn’t hurt that Toews has the best plus/minus rating among the league’s top 10 scorers, with an impressive +24 mark.)

One of the most underrated parts of his game is his work in the faceoff circle, by the way. He leads the league with 758 faceoffs won and also has an outstanding 57.4 winning percentage this season. That’s not an ability that will get you on highlight reels, but it’s one of those hard work/attention to detail areas that reveal Toews’ do-everything mentality.

So who knows if Toews will ever make it easy for Hart Trophy voters by putting up 100-point seasons and piling up Art Ross Trophy wins, but he’s the NHL’s answer to a “five-tool player” in baseball. He can score highlight reel goals, provide plenty of assists, displays responsible defensive positioning, is willing to apply the elbow grease necessary to score “dirty” goals in the playoffs and wins more than his far share of draws.

Despite losing the likes of Dustin Byfuglien to free agency, this Chicago team still sports plenty of firepower. Yet it seems like their fate is tied to the work of “Captain Serious.”

Toews is responding by pulling his team – and his already sterling reputation – into the upper echelon of the league’s elite.