The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association gets to select the winner of the Hart Trophy, but before they cast their ballot, 20 NHL head coaches — 10 in the East and 10 in the West — were asked who their choice for the award would be and the results weren’t even close.
All 20 bench bosses said Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price would be their top pick for the Hart Trophy, per the survey conducted by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the league with 52 goals, finished second on the ballot 19 times with the lone exception going to Ryan Getzlaf. John Tavares had six third-place votes to Sidney Crosby’s five.
Price would be the first goaltender since Jose Theodore in 2002 to take the Hart Trophy, but he’s been regarded as a favorite for the award for a while now. His dominant play is one of the big reasons the Montreal Canadiens might win the Presidents’ Trophy, but this is likely also a reflection of the relatively muted Art Ross Trophy race we’re witnessing.
While Ovechkin is far ahead of the pack in terms of goals, the points race is relatively open and no forward is likely to finish with 90 or more points. Not including lockout shortened seasons, that hasn’t happened since Stan Mikita won the scoring race with 87 points in 1967–68. It’s easy to assume that the lack of 90-plus point players is a byproduct of reduced scoring, but that’s not the case. The league has been averaging 2.74 goals per team per game this season, which is on par with what we’ve seen over the last four seasons, per hockey reference.
So scoring hasn’t gone down, it’s just become more spread out and that lack of dominance at the top might be playing into Price’s hands. At the same time, he wouldn’t be a contender either way if he wasn’t having an amazing season.