After careful consideration, these are the three forwards, two defensemen and goaltender who excelled during 2011 calendar year in the regular season.
GAMES PLAYED: 76 | +/-: -10
2011 numbers: 76 games, 44 goals, 40 assists, 84 points, minus-10
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: He seemed like a sure bet to follow brother Henrik's Hart Trophy campaign of 2009-10 with his own last year before Corey Perry's second-half surge. But this Sedin had his own big second half and has continued it this season. After closing last season with 57 points in 46 games, he's picked up right where he left off this season.
2011 numbers: 82 games, 36 goals, 62 assists, 98 points, plus-30
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres: His name is rarely bandied about in discussion about the game's best power forwards, but his numbers always do the talking. He has a pair of 40-goal seasons, as well as a pair of 30-goal seasons under his belt, and he's on his way to at least another 30 goals this season. We're only counting the regular season here, but he also had 5 goals in the Sabres' seven-round playoff loss to the Flyers in April.
2011 numbers: 82 games, 37 goals, 49 assists, 86 points, plus-14
GAMES PLAYED: 76 | +/-: 39
2011 numbers: 77 games, 17 goals, 36 assists, 53 points, plus-38
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators: Perhaps the game's best overall defenseman did most of his damage last season once January rolled around. He had 31 of his 48 points from that point and had a strong case to with the Norris Trophy. If he keeps things up this season, perhaps he'll finally wrangle it away from perennial contender and usual winner Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings.
2011 numbers: 79 games, 19 goals, 40 assists, 59 points, plus-26
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins: The hardest part about picking Thomas as the best goaltender of this calendar year was computing his numbers, which are broken up across two seasons. Calculating goals-against average can be a pain. Coincidentally, pain is what Thomas inflicted on just about everyone on his way to a Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy last season. So far in 2011-12, he's exceeding his numbers from last season. There's no one better right now.
2011 numbers: 33 wins, 2.07 GAA, .935 save percentage, 8 shutouts
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