-- The numbers alone suggest Sidney Crosby
should win the Hart Trophy this season. But his Pittsburgh Penguins
teammates say the numbers are just the beginning of the MVP story when it comes to "Sid the Kid."
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. He also tied for the NHL goal-scoring lead, splitting the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos
. Both players scored 51 goals this season.
Thursday, those numbers were good enough to allow Crosby to be one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy, which 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.
"It didn't matter who we were playing, he was there for us. He scored those crucial goals for us and he does everything that a captain should do to lead a team." -- Sergei Gonchar on Sidney Crosby
Washington's Alex Ovechkin
, the two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner, and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin
, the top overall scorer in the League this season, are the other finalists.
Will Crosby garner enough votes to win his second Hart Trophy when the League's hardware is given out at the 2010 NHL Awards on June 23 at the Palm Theater in Las Vegas (VERSUS, CBC)?
That remains to be seen, but there was some early stumping coming out of the Penguins' dressing room at their Southpointe Icoplex practice facility Thursday afternoon.
"Sid is Sid," veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar
said. "I mean, if you look at him, he is the leader for us the whole season. It didn't matter who we were playing, he was there for us. He scored those crucial goals for us and he does everything that a captain should do to lead a team."
"Sid the leader" was a common theme in the stump speeches given Thursday. Yes, some acknowledged the points Crosby put up this season. And they talked about his marked improvement as a goal scorer, as well as his evolution toward becoming one of the game's elite faceoff artists.
But they also talked about Crosby's leadership and the impact it has had on the defending Stanley Cup champions, who will begin the Eastern Conference Semifinals Friday against the Montreal Canadiens
at Mellon Arena (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). His teammates argue that it is the leadership role that has been thrust upon No. 87 at such an early age that puts him head and shoulders above the other two candidates for this year's Hart.
Crosby is captain of the defending Stanley Cup champions. He has already been to the Final twice in his short career and his Penguins have the inside track -- as the highest remaining seed in the Eastern Conference -- to once again make it to the championship round.
"There is a certain amount of skill that has to be there and is there and is part of that award," Pens coach Dan Bylsma
said. "But I think the intangibles that he brings to the rink every day -- that he brings to our team in a leadership capacity -- are becoming more and more evident as you see him in his career.
"He's getting better in certain areas and he has in certain ways. There's a lot this year. The more you see, the more you know how he is a leader, as far as setting an example and how he continues to work to get better, how he approaches the game. That's a big factor for our team -- not only this year, but for the development of our team."
Crosby didn't want to get too tied up in talking about an individual award on the only day his team had to prepare for the challenges the upset-minded Canadiens planned to throw the Penguins' way.
Crosby admitted he was happy that some off-season work on the release of his shot, as well as a mental commitment to shoot more often, paid off. Crosby, known for his play-making ability, set a personal-best for goals. He also acknowledged that his progression in the faceoff circle is a source of pride.
This season, he ranked No. 11 in the League in faceoff percentage, winning 55.9 percent of his draws. His 1,001 faceoff wins in the regular season were tops in the League, 137 more than second-place Mikko Koivu
But Crosby also said he has had little time to reflect on what he has accomplished this season. That, he says, will come well after the Penguins are done with this postseason campaign.
"(The season) felt good," Crosby said. "I don't think about the season or reflect on the season too often. You just try to be as consistent as you can. I was able to score a bit more this year and that was something I wanted to improve on and was happy I did."