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Stamkos has the look of an MVP

Friday, 02.25.2011 / 9:00 AM / 2011 NHL Awards

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Stamkos has the look of an MVP
With Steven Stamkos leading the resurgent Lightning and looking like a solid bet to take home his second straight Richard Trophy, he has the look of the Hart Trophy winner at the season's three-quarter pole.
Last season Vancouver's Henrik Sedin edged out Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the scoring title and followed that up by earning the Hart Trophy for the first time in his career. He was the second Swedish player in League history to win after Peter Forsberg, and both he and his brother could be in contention to make it three for Tre Kronor.

This award was Crosby's to lose a month ago, but the more time he's missed with a concussion, the more it has allowed other candidates back into the race. Boston goalie Tim Thomas is not on this list because of two reasons: 1) it is tough for a goalie to win the award; and 2) the six times a goalie has won it in the past 60 years, said goalie has played at least 67 games that season. Thomas is on pace to play 58. Besides, there is another guy who probably won't play enough games to earn the votes necessary to win in front of him.

Winner:

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning --
Stamkos is well on his way to collecting the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for a second straight year, and Tampa Bay's surge towards the top of the Eastern Conference standings makes him an easy choice as the Hart Trophy favorite. Sure, he's had plenty of help from Martin St. Louis (another guy who could finish in the top five or six of the voting) but Stamkos has become the League's most feared goal scorer and deserves to be mentioned among the very best players in the sport.

He was on pace for 56 goals as of Thursday, and 60 is not out of the question considering his propensity for prolonged hot streaks this season. Stamkos could also still win the Art Ross Trophy as well as he tries to help the Lightning win the Southeast Division for the first time since 2003-04.

Runners-up:

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks --
Picking from the trio of MVP candidates on the Canucks roster is not easy, and probably why one of them isn't likely to win the award. Ryan Kesler has garnered some Hart Trophy consideration because he's one of the best defensive players in the League and is among those chasing Stamkos for the Richard Trophy. Henrik Sedin is the defending champion and again leads the League in assists.

At this point his brother Daniel is the best candidate on the League's best team. While he leads the team with seven game-winning goals, that stat can be a little misleading because not all GWGs are equal. Daniel also leads the Canucks (and the NHL) in scoring the first goal of the game with 11 -- three more than anyone else in the League and eight more than Kesler. Teams that score the first goal win a large portion of the time (29 teams are better than .500 when scoring first and Vancouver is 32-1-6). Toss in the fact that Sedin leads the team (and again, the NHL) in points and he is the most deserving Hart Trophy candidate in Vancouver.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Remember that this is a "if the season ended today" approach to the Hart Trophy. Crosby has missed 21 games and will miss more because of a concussion, but he's still tied for third in the League in goals and sixth in points. The Penguins remain in fourth place in the East and have the second-most points largely because of the cushion they built up when Crosby was having the best season of his career and was the League's dominant player. He also compiled those numbers despite the Penguins being without Jordan Staal for the first three months and less than expected production from Evgeni Malkin.

Crosby would need to come back soon, though, to still have a chance to win the Hart for a second time in his career. He edges out Thomas and the other Tampa Bay/Vancouver players for the third spot on this list.