Hart Trophy Finalists: Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin vs. John Tavares

The NHL announced on Friday that center Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, right wing Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and center John Tavares of the New York Islanders are the three finalists for the 2012-13 Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team,” as voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

This marks the first time the three Hart Finalists were first overall picks in the NHL Draft.

This is also an All-Eastern Conference Hart Trophy race, which will no doubt earn criticism from the West. But Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane likely split their vote; Ryan Getzlaf didn't get the buzz he deserved; and Sergei Bobrovsky missed the playoffs.

The award might come down to whether Crosby missing significant time at the end of the season is more important than Ovechkin’s iceberg-slow start for the Capitals.

Then again, voters might have decided that Tavares leading the Islanders to an unlikely playoff berth, their first since 2007, is more impressive than anything Sid and Ovie accomplished.

Who wins the Hart?

Why Sidney Crosby Deserves The Hart

The NHL says:

Although he missed the final 12 games of the regular season due to injury, Crosby still finished fourth in the League with 56 points and second with 41 assists to help the Penguins claim the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. He collected points in 28 of the 36 games he played in (77.8%), including 17 multi-point efforts, and recorded three point streaks of six games or more, including an eight-game stretch Feb. 24-March 10 (5-15—20). Crosby also finished fourth in the NHL with a +26 rating and posted his second career five-assist game March 10 vs. NY Islanders, becoming the only active NHLer with more than one such game in his career. The 25-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native previously won the Hart Trophy in 2006-07 and also was a finalist for the award in 2009-10.

Crosby was on his way to an incredible, historic offensive season before the injury – it’s hard to imagine he won’t win the Lindsay for most outstanding player. The issue is that 12 games is 25 percent of the season, and the Penguins didn’t exactly stumble without him on the ice.

Why Alex Ovechkin Deserves The Hart

The NHL says:

Ovechkin tallied 32 goals in 48 games, including 23 in his final 23 contests, to become the first three-time winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s goal-scoring leader. He also finished third in the League in points (56), first in power-play goals (16), first in power-play points (27) and first in shots on goal (220), leading the Capitals to an 11-1-1 record in April and their fifth Southeast Division title in the last six years. Ovechkin recorded points in nine straight games March 17-April 2 (10-5—15), including a five-game goal streak March 17-24, and tallied his 30th goal of the year April 20, becoming the ninth player in League history to score 30 or more goals in each of his first eight seasons. The 27-year-old Moscow native is a two-time Hart Trophy winner (2007-08, 2008-09) and also was a finalist for the award in 2009-10.

Ovechkin’s goal-scoring tear from March 17 through the end of the season turned the Capitals from a team facing potential roster implosion to a Southeast Division winner. He played his best hockey in years in the second half of the season. The problem: He had nine goals in his first 27 games.

Why John Tavares Deserves The Hart

The NHL says:

Tavares ranked third in the League with 28 goals and led the Islanders with 47 points in 48 games to propel the team to its first postseason berth since 2006-07. He scored 15 of his goals on the road (third in the NHL), helping the Islanders record their best road winning percentage in franchise history (.667). Tavares also ranked in the top 10 in the League in even-strength goals (19), power-play goals (nine) and game-winning goals (five). He scored in five straight games Feb. 7-16, including his fourth career hat trick Feb. 16 vs. New Jersey, and posted 13 multi-point games. The 22-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native is a first-time finalist for the Hart Trophy.

Just like a coach from a “losing team” that becomes a playoff team is usually a stronger Jack Adams candidate than, say, Mike Babcock, it’s easy to point to what the Islanders were expected to be and what they turned out to be and give credit to Tavares’s awesome offensive season.

Who Wins The Hart Trophy?

Ovechkin. It’s the same sort of dominance Corey Perry had in the second half of his season two years ago, and he skated home with the Hart. Sometimes the timing of the vote matters: Ovechkin was the best player in hockey during the voting, while Crosby was being fitted for a Super Shredder mask for his jaw, missing 12 games.

Our Ballot

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
3. John Tavares, New York Islanders
4. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
5. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Ovechkin’s second half wipes away memories of his first-half struggles, which could be chalked up to a new coach and his playing a new position. He was the essential reason for the Capitals’ turnaround, and without question their most valuable player.

Crosby’s season can’t be denied, and it’s hard to hold an injury against him. Taraves was huge for the Islanders, in a star-making performance. But where would they have been without Nabokov?

Toews had as strong a complete season as any player in the NHL, but shared the spotlight with Patrick Kane.

I define value as “making the postseason,” which is why they play the games. Bobrovsky would have won in a slam-dunk if the Blue Jackets had made the cut. But I can’t in good faith put him anywhere but an honorable mention of fifth because his team missed the playoffs. You don’t give the Conn Smythe to a player ousted in the conference finals, and you don’t give the Hart to the No. 9 team in the West.