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Penguins' Crosby leads Hart Trophy race

Monday, 11.18.2013 / 3:00 AM / Trophy Tracker

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Penguins' Crosby leads Hart Trophy race
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is NHL.com's choice as the NHL's Most Valuable Player through the first quarter of the 2013-14 season.

With the first quarter of the 2013-14 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of its biggest storylines and award contenders.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby started the season with a bang and hasn't really slowed down. His outstanding play has helped keep the Penguins at or near the top of the Metropolitan Division standings through the first quarter of the season, putting him in the lead to win his second Hart Trophy.

Crosby had his scoring stroke in place right from the first drop of the puck. He scored a goal opening night and had at least a point in eight straight games, the best season-opening run of his outstanding career; he had seven goals and 17 points in his scoring streak.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 25
SOG: 73 | +/-: 3
He entered the week with nine goals and 16 assists, giving him a direct role in 45.4 percent of Pittsburgh's non-shootout goals (25 of 55).

Crosby also has a plus-3 rating while averaging 22:44 of ice time per game, which is second among the League's forwards. That total includes nearly a minute per game killing penalties.

He has won 55.2 percent of his 504 faceoffs, the second most draws in the League entering the week.

Crosby's play not only has carried him to the top of the scoring race, it's helped the Penguins emerge as a contender for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins were on top of the Metropolitan Division most of the season before the Washington Capitals inched past them by one point with their win against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Crosby has been the League's most valuable player through the first quarter of the season, but it's not a unanimous win, nor is it guaranteed he'll be in this position when the Hart Trophy voting is held at the end of the regular season. But for now, the award is the Pittsburgh captain's to lose.

FINALISTS

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Stamkos' true value will be seen over the next few months while the star center recovers from the broken right leg he sustained Nov. 11.

With Stamkos in the lineup, the Lightning were one of the most pleasant surprises of the first quarter of the season, sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings. Stamkos, of course, was a big reason for the early season success.

Stamkos had 14 goals and 23 points in 17 games, meaning he had a hand in 44.2 percent of Tampa Bay's 52 non-shootout goals prior to his injury. He also was a plus-11, due in part to his 10 even-strength goals.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks -- Chicago's "Mr. Everything" is having another outstanding season. He has 10 goals, nine assists and a plus-6 rating, and has averaged 20:48 of ice time per game through 21 games.

It also helps Toews' case that the Blackhawks are tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the most points in the League, with 32, heading into the week.

Toews has won a team-best 57.0 percent of his faceoffs while playing in all situations, including 30.1 percent of the time the Blackhawks have been shorthanded, second among the team's forwards, according to advanced-statistics site Extraskater.com.

And he's been a better player on the road, with eight points in eight games (compared to 11 points in 13 home games), a big reason why the Blackhawks are 5-2-1 away from United Center.

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You don't see many. The [Drew] Doughtys, the [P.K.] Subbans, those are guys that create offense from the back and then on top of that ability, the size that he has. In the West you play against some pretty big players, and being able to clear the crease and contain the [Ryan] Getzlafs and the [Corey] Perrys and [Anze] Kopitars and players like that, we're excited about him going back there.

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