Last season, the race between Europeans Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Washington's Alex Ovechkin for MVP honors was one for the ages. When the ballots were counted, Sedin knocked off the reigning, two-time MVP by just 60 votes to become the first player in the history of the Canuck franchise to claim the Hart Trophy. The first-place votes were just as close as Sedin received 46 to Ovechkin's 40.
Yet, neither of those players are among the frontrunners for the 2010-11 edition of the award, according to NHL.com's Dan Rosen. In fact, it is a pair of North American superstars battling neck and neck, with a Russian -- not Ovechkin -- hanging around the fringes of the race as the NHL season rounds the quarter pole.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay -- He's already proven that his 51 goals last season were no fluke. Stamkos leads the NHL with 20 goals and is tied for the lead with 35 points and is a big reason why the surprising Lightning are in the playoff picture. His 10 power-play goals are also tops in the League. He's scoring goals from all over the ice, which shows his growth from last season, when he scored more a third of his 51 goals from the left side, specifically the left circle. He's already had two hat tricks this season and two other multi-goal games.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh -- A mild concussion has sidelined 'The Kid,' but not before he lapped the field in the second quarter of the season thanks to his remarkable 25-game point scoring streak in which he had 26 goals and 24 assists. He had 26 points in November and 24 more in December. When we last ran this Trophy Tracker package he was tied with Steven Stamkos for the League-lead in points with 35 in 22 games. Crosby has 31 points during his past 19 games to give him 32 goals and 34 assists for the season. He is on pace for 64 goals and 132 points. If he can get healthy soon and keep his numbers strong, it's possible for him to score the most points in a single season since Mario Lemieux's 161 in 1995-96.
But, for Crosby, it's not just the points. He's playing nearly 22 minutes per game and winning better than 55 percent of his faceoffs. He leads the League with 958 faceoffs taken. He's a plus-20. The Penguins reeled off 12-straight wins during Crosby's point streak and are clinging to the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 56 points in 42 games.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit -- While there are 20 players in the League with as many or more points than Datsyuk, he's got his 22 points in only 18 games and he's doing it as the No. 1 player on the No. 1 team in what has to be the No. 1 division in the NHL right now. He has 7 goals on just 44 shots and 15 assists for 22 points. He's had a point in all but three games and he's a plus-5.