Monday, March 30, 2009

With One Month Left, A Look at the Hart Front Runners

It's only a matter of time before the puck drops on playoff ice and the NHL's second season begins. But as the regular season draws to an end, the debates for the coveted award trophies begin, and as usual, the Hart Trophy is a hot topic of discussion.

Much has been said about the two front runners for the Hart Trophy, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, but it wasn't until early March that the Penguins sophmore center became a true candidate for the Hart.

Most had already written off the award as Ovechkin's after a dominating February campaign which saw him record a point in every game but one that month (he did this again in March), but Malkin has been the spearhead of the Penguins playoff push, leading his team in goals and assists.

So let's take a look at the two leaders point progression from opening day to March.

Points By Month


(G, A, P, +/-)


(G, A, P, +/-)


2, 3, 5, +4

3,13, 16, +3


11, 14, 25, +9

2, 16, 23, +8


12, 7, 19, -1

5, 13, 20, +9


8, 5, 13, +1

6, 10, 16, -3


12, 7, 19, +1

7, 7, 14, 0


8, 11, 19, -3

5, 13, 18, 3


53, 47, 100, +11

33, 74, 107, +20

One glaring blemish sticks out on Ovechkin's chart. His month-long slump in October, the longest of his career. The fact that Ovechkin achieved 50 goals, and 100 points after spending a month below his expectations is astounding.

The last time that Ovechkin was held to single digits in points during a full month of hockey (not including abbreviated months i.e. April and Olympic Breaks), was 2006-2007, the year he didn't break 50 goals or 100 points.

What also sticks out is that Malkin didn't best Ovie in February or March in terms of points. Those were the two key months that Malkin supporters believe lock in his bid for the Hart. In fact, in the month of March, fellow center Sidney Crosby matched Malkin's points with 6 goals and 12 assists and was a +4.

Of course we must remember that points alone do not earn a player the Hart Trophy.

Another look at the Hart race can be seen by the NHL's star ratings. While they are not "real" statistics, and are subjective to the opinions of those who choose them, they do provide insight into how the league views a player's accomplishments throughout the year.

Let's take a look at those.

Star Ratings




Total Points








Times Named First Star




Even though Malkin has outscored Crosby and Ovechkin in points, the NHL star rating group has not once selected Malkin as the best player (first star) at any given time during the season.

So given the stats and trends of the two front runners, is the Hart still a lock for Ovechkin? Or will Malkin steal it away in his sophomore year?

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