Ovechkin, Tavares, Price are Hart Trophy finalists

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Montreal’s Carey Price, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and the Islanders’ John Tavares have been revealed as the finalists for the 2015 Hart Trophy.

For Ovechkin, this is an opportunity for him to take home the award for a fourth time. That would put him in an elite group that currently consists of just Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, and Wayne Gretzky.

There are some arguments in favor of Ovechkin being named the league’s MVP. The single biggest one is his dominance of the goals category as he netted 53 markers while the next best player, Steven Stamkos, had 43 goals. Ovechkin also arguably had his best defensive season in years, as evidenced by his 53.7% Fenwick For in 5-on-5 situations. That’s plus-3.2% better than his team did when he wasn’t on the ice, which represents the biggest gap since 2010-11. In other words, by that measure, you could suggest that his presence on the ice had a greater positive impact for Washington than it had in recent years.

Tavares has never won the award before, but he had a strong campaign with 38 goals and 86 points in 82 contests. After a difficult 2013-14 campaign for the Islanders, the captain played a big role in guiding the franchise back to the playoffs. The Islanders’ 47-28-7 record was also their best since 1983-84.

Since being selected with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Tavares has helped turn the Islanders’ franchise around, but there was arguably a player that had an even bigger impact on his team this year. Montreal owes its success in 2014-15 in large part to Price. He was consistently dominant throughout the campaign and ended up with 44 wins, a 1.96 GAA, and a .933 save percentage in 66 starts.

Goaltenders are typically at a disadvantage when it comes to the Hart Trophy and the last netminder to overcome that was Jose Theodore in 2001–02. However, Price’s dominance combined with a relatively lackluster campaign for top-end forwards might have set the stage for him to claim this year’s award.