Claude Giroux was the early leader in the Hart Trophy race over Phil Kessel and Anze Kopitar. By the midpoint of the season, the NHL.com trophy tracker showed the Flyers center still in the lead with Jonathan Toews and Kessel behind him in second and third, respectively.
Giroux was running away with the trophy, but there was still plenty of track left.
Evgeni Malkin was busy playing his way into the mix, and by the three-quarter pole he was ahead of the competition and pulling away. Henrik Lundqvist and Steven Stamkos got the edge over Giroux while Kessel, Toews and Kopitar fell back into the pack.
Now that the race is just about complete, the trophy tracker is back to witness the player that will cross the finish line first as the MVP of the 2011-12 NHL season.
2011-12 NHL TROPHY TRACKER
- HART TROPHY: Dominant Malkin in a landslide
- VEZINA TROPHY: Quick gets nod in photo finish
- NORRIS TROPHY: Karlsson stands out from pack
- JACK ADAMS AWARD: Hitch brings out best in Blues
- SELKE TROPHY: Bergeron is our wire-to-wire winner
- LADY BYNG TROPHY: Eriksson elevates his game
- CALDER TROPHY: Well-rounded Landeskog shines
- GM OF THE YEAR: Poile builds Preds into contender
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh -- Malkin has turned into the runaway winner after taking over the lead from Giroux somewhere between the halfway point of the season and the three-quarter pole. He will finish with the most points in the NHL and could be the only player to top the century mark.
Malkin had a slow start because of a sore right knee, the same knee he had surgically repaired last February. He missed seven of eight games in October, but picked up his play and has without question been the most dominant player in the NHL since November.
Malkin is on most nights the most noticeable player on the ice, and that includes games both before and after Sidney Crosby returned to the Penguins lineup. He is the NHL's definition of a five-tool player with his unique brand of speed, power, skill, and both a powerful and accurate shot. His one-timer is a goalie's (and a shot blocker's) worst nightmare.
He became the first player since the 1995-96 season to post at least four 5-point games in one season. He had 29 multiple-point games entering the final week of the season.
After scoring only 7 points in October, Malkin had at least 16 points per month in each of the next five months. He had 20 points in February and 23 in March.
Malkin has torched the Penguins' biggest rivals with 5 goals against the Rangers, and 4 each against the Devils, Flyers and Capitals. He still had one game left against both the Rangers and Flyers entering this week. The Jets will never forget Malkin either, because he had 8 goals and 3 assists in four games against them. He also had 11 points against the Lightning and 8 against the Sabres.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers -- Giroux has been a model of consistency all season, a remarkable feat for the 24-year-old who always gets the toughest matchup of the night.
Giroux started fast with 9 goals and 10 assists through his first 14 games. By Christmas he had 43 points, including three 4-point games, despite missing four games because of a concussion.
He went through his first (and only) slump of the season in January, when he had only 2 assists and was a minus-9 over seven games from Jan. 7-19, but Giroux broke out of it just before the All-Star break. He had 31 points over 29 games between February and March.
Giroux's longest point scoring slump was three games. It happened twice.
Beyond his offense, Giroux has consistently been the Flyers most dependable two-way forward and their only center that is better than 50 percent in the faceoff circle. He's also a major reason why Scott Hartnell was an All-Star and Jaromir Jagr has made a seamless transition back to the NHL at 40.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning -- While Tampa Bay isn't going to the playoffs because it has struggled all season with keeping the puck out of the net, Stamkos' ability to put it in was the main reason the Lightning were mathematically alive as late as last week.
Since this is an individual award, Stamkos' individual numbers can't be ignored.
He will win the Rocket Richard Trophy this season and could potentially get to 60 goals with a strong finish. Nobody has done that since Alex Ovechkin had 65 in 2007-08. Stamkos had 56 entering the final four games of the season.
Stamkos might also finish second behind Malkin in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. He had 92 points heading into Monday's game against Washington.
Unlike the previous two seasons, when Stamkos did a lot of his damage on the power play, this season he's been doing it mostly at even strength. He is also scoring when it matters most with five overtime winners and a League-best 11 game-winners entering Monday. He had 19 goals when the Lightning were tied in games and 9 more when they were trailing by one.
Stamkos isn't padding his stats with empty-net goals either. He had just one through the first 78 games.
Stamkos also became a more physical player this season, one that is willing to hang around the net to cash in.
He's definitely not to blame for Tampa Bay's problems.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl