Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks are the 2009-10 finalists for the Hart Trophy. They also were the top three scorers in the NHL this past season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is presented annually "to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team." The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in the 30 NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
The winner of the trophy will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, to be held in Las Vegas on June 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.
Here is a closer look at the finalists:
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby the playmaker became Crosby the shooter in his fifth NHL season, taking a career-high 298 shots (fifth-most in the League) and scoring a career-best 51 goals, one of the few statistical highlights he had yet to achieve. Crosby earned a share of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the League's goal-scoring leader, splitting the honor with Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay.
Crosby led the Penguins and finished second in the NHL scoring race with 109 points, the fourth time in his five seasons he's hit the 100-point mark.
The litany of Crosby achievements in 2009-10 is impressive:
* In the second game of the season, Oct. 3, he became the sixth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 400 career points, reaching the mark with an assist against the Islanders in his 292nd game.
* On April 8, he earned his 500th career point, becoming the third-youngest player to reach the mark at 22 years, 244 days (Wayne Gretzky, 21 years, 52 days; Mario Lemieux, 22, years, 172 days).
* Crosby led the NHL with three hat tricks, becoming the first Penguin to accomplish the feat since Alexei Kovalev in 2001-02.
* He tied a single-game career high with 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) Jan. 19 against the Islanders, and he recorded a season-long nine-game point streak from Feb. 12-March 14, posting 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) during the span.
* Crosby led the League with 8 shootout goals and an 80-percent success rate.
It wasn't all about scoring with Crosby. He ranked 11th in the League with a 55.9-percent faceoff winning percentage and led the NHL with 1,001 faceoff wins, 137 more than second-place Mikko Koivu of Minnesota (864).
This is Crosby's second Hart nomination, and he won the honor in 2006-07. Other Penguins to capture the Hart are Jaromir Jagr (1998-99) and Mario Lemieux (1987-88, 1992-93, 1995-96). Evgeni Malkin placed second in voting for the trophy in 2007-08.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin is the two-time defending Hart Trophy winner and made a strong case to retain the honor this season.
Despite tying for second overall in scoring, Ovechkin led the NHL in points per game (1.51) and goals per game (0.69). He also tied for sixth in assists (59) and was sixth in power-play points (36).
Ovechkin led the League in shots on goal (368), even-strength goals (37) and goals on the road (24), and placed second in the League in plus/minus with a plus-45, trailing only teammate Jeff Schultz (plus-50).
Ovechkin's game also includes a physicality often lacking among the top scorers -- he ranked 29th in the League with 185 hits. None of the players who finished ahead of him placed in the top 67 scorers in the NHL.
The Capitals were 40-8-8 when Ovechkin recorded a point and 28-3-4 when he scored a goal. He scored his first career penalty-shot goal Jan. 17 against the Flyers, and posted a five-game goal streak from Jan. 31-Feb. 7, Washington's longest of the season.
He joined Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy as the only players with four 50-goal seasons in their first five years in the League, and joined Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Stastny, Dale Hawerchuk and Sidney Crosby as the only players with four 100-point seasons in their first five years.
Ovechkin also established himself as a team leader. On Jan. 5, when he was appointed team captain, the Capitals were trailing by five points in the Eastern Conference race. After Ovechkin began wearing the "C," they went 30-4-7 and won the conference by 18 points.
The only other Washington Capitals players to finish in the top five in Hart Trophy voting are Olaf Kolzig (1999-2000) and Rod Langway (1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85).
This is his first career Hart nomination, and it comes on the heels of him winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's regular-season scoring leader with 112 points. He had 29 goals and a League-leading 83 assists in 82 games, the fifth-straight season Sedin hasn't missed a game.
Sedin became the first player in Vancouver's 40-year history to win the Art Ross, and he broke the franchise single-season high in points, passing Pavel Bure (110 in 1992-93). Sedin also became the Canucks' all-time leader in assists and now has 434 in nine seasons.
Sedin's 1.37 points per game average was second in the NHL to Ovechkin (1.51). He recorded two 4-point games and 12 3-point games this season. Sedin also placed eighth in the NHL in plus/minus (plus-35), and ninth in shooting percentage, scoring his 29 goals on 166 shots (17.5 percent).
Sedin posted a 10-game point streak from Dec. 22-Jan. 11 (20 points) and a nine-game streak from Dec. 2-Dec. 18 (16 points). He also had two seven-game assist streaks and two six-game assist streaks.
On Dec. 12 against Minnesota, Sedin became the fifth player in Canucks history to accumulate 500 career points. He passed Thomas Gradin to become the highest-scoring center and fourth-leading scorer in franchise history when he recorded his 551st career point with an assist March 13 against Ottawa.
He was the NHL's First Star for December (25 points in 15 games), Second Star for January (25 points in 13 games) and Third Star for March (24 points in 15 games)
Sedin also dispelled notions that he could not score without linemate and twin brother Daniel playing on his wing. With Daniel out for 19 games due to injury, Henrik had 10 goals and 19 points.
Sedin is bidding to become the first Canuck to win the Hart. Roberto Luongo placed second in 2006-07, Markus Naslund was second in 2002-03 and fifth in 2003-04 and 2001-02, Todd Bertuzzi was fifth in 2002-03, and Kirk McLean was fourth in 1991-92.