Sidney Crosby has been so dominant this season that missing five games with a broken jaw isn't enough to prevent him from winning the Hart Trophy at the three-quarter mark of the season.
Even if Crosby doesn't return during the regular season, what he's done in 36 games will probably earn him his second career Hart Trophy; the first was in 2007.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain still leads the League in points with 56, five more than Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and is tied for first in assists with 41 along with Stamkos' teammate Martin St. Louis. Although Pittsburgh defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin also have been injured, the Penguins are 3-2-0 since Crosby went down.
Before scoring six times against the Lightning on Thursday, the Penguins were averaging two goals per game without Crosby after averaging 3.36 goals per game with him in the lineup.
There's still time for others to make a push over the final quarter of the season, but right now, it's Crosby's Hart Trophy to lose.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals -- The Southeast Division is clearly the least competitive, but Ovechkin doesn't decide where his team plays and he doesn't devise the schedule. It doesn't matter who the Capitals are playing -- Ovechkin's 16 goals in his past 14 games are a big reason Washington is atop the Southeast. The Capitals are 11-2-1 in their past 14 games.
John Tavares, New York Islanders -- The Islanders are about as deep as an inflatable pool, but it hasn't mattered with Tavares basically carrying the team toward a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. He has 24 goals and 42 points, and his line with Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes has combined for 45 goals and 112 points. He's a minus player, but that has little to do with his play at even strength and more to do with the overall team. He's minus-5 on the season, but plus-5 in New York's past 10 games.