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Price's value to Canadiens makes him choice for Hart

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

With the 2014-15 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines and award contenders.

There isn't a team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that relied on its goaltending more than the Montreal Canadiens did in the regular season. There wasn't a goalie better in the regular season than Montreal's Carey Price.

Do the math and it should be easy to determine who the Hart Trophy winner will be for the 2014-15 season. Price should be the first goaltender to be named the League's most valuable player since Jose Theodore did it in 2001-02 with the Canadiens.

"When he came back from the Olympics, winning that gold medal gave him the confidence to be a winner," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said last week. "Certainly he's a true leader for us, and as far as we're concerned he's the best player in the world. He's got an impact on every game with his leadership and he's calm. Our team plays with a lot of confidence when he's out there."

Price's value to the Canadiens is obvious with his personal stats, including his NHL-best 44 wins, .933 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average. Those numbers alone put him in the running for the Hart Trophy.

The reason Price is a cinch for the trophy is because of how the Canadiens played around him. They were one of the League's bottom-tier teams when it came to scoring, puck possession and shot suppression, but Price made them the best in the League at preventing goals.

That's what an MVP does.

Montreal finished 20th in the League in goals-for (2.61 per game) and was minus-136 shots on goal differential, which was ninth worst. The Canadiens allowed 30.1 shots on goal per game and 45.4 even-strength shot attempts per game (SAT).

Despite those paltry scoring and possession numbers, Montreal was first in the League in goals-against (2.24 per game). That because of Price. That's why the Canadiens finished first in the Atlantic Division with 110 points.

That's why he was the NHL's most valuable player in 2014-15.

"He's been terrific," Therrien said. "There are times that he's capable of making some saves and you're saying to yourself, even guys on the bench, 'It's pretty amazing.' To reach the high level he's reached this year he's competing really hard. It's not a matter of talent. If you want to raise your game to that type of level you've gotta compete and this is a guy that competes really hard in practice and he brings that to the game. He never gives up on any shots. Certainly he's a true leader for us."

FINALISTS

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 53 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 81
SOG: 395 | +/-: 10
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: Ovechkin turned in yet another 50-goal season, putting him in a category with the all-time great goal scorers in NHL history as a six-time 50-goal scorer and five-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the League's leading goal scorer.

Ovechkin finished with 53 goals and 81 points, putting him fourth in the Art Ross Trophy race behind Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Beyond the goals and points, Ovechkin's overall game was the best it has been in his 10 seasons in the NHL.

He finished with a plus-10 rating after being a minus-35 last season. He improved defensively, came back harder into the zone, and contributed to Washington being seventh in the League in goals-against per game (2.43) as much as he was a big part of the Capitals scoring 2.89 goals per game, which put them tied for sixth in the League.

Ovechkin was without question the biggest reason the Capitals had the League's best power play. He led the NHL with 25 power-play goals.

John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares was edged by Benn for the Art Ross Trophy by one

John Tavares
Center - NYI
GOALS: 38 | ASST: 48 | PTS: 86
SOG: 278 | +/-: 5
point, but his 86 points helped the Islanders get into the playoffs as the third-place team in the Metropolitan Division.

Tavares closed the season strong with 12 points during a six-game point scoring streak. He had a goal in four of the Islanders' last five games. New York slumped down the stretch but it was hardly Tavares' fault.

Tavares was particularly dominant in the games that meant the most to the Islanders when he had 40 points in 30 games against Metropolitan Division opponents.

Of his 38 goals, he scored 27 when the Islanders were either trailing or tied. He scored four overtime winners and eight game-winners overall.

Also in the mix: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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