Who will be nominated for the Hart Trophy?
The Hart Memorial Trophy finalists will be announced on Thursday and there are a number of players who can lay claim to a strong season.
The predominant storyline, especially in Canada, will focus on Daniel Sedin. Vancouver's leading goal scorer can have the chance to follow in the footsteps of twin brother Henrik, who won the award handed out to the league's most valuable player as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
Here's look at some of the deserving candidates, grouped by goalies and skaters.
GoaliesHenrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Pro: Led the league with 11 shutouts and had nine other games in which he allowed just one goal (including two that the punchless Rangers lost). Allowed more than three goals in just 11 of 67 appearances. Top five in both goals against and save percentage.
Con: You can argue he's a more deserving Vezina candidate than Roberto Luongo, but if you're not a Vezina finalist it's hard to get consideration for the Hart.
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pro: Few goalies faced more shots than Price. Of the playoff goalies, only Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles received less goal support than Price. Montreal skaters provided Price with zero goals on eight occasions. Tied for the league lead in wins, top three in shutouts, and top six in save percentage.
Con: You could probably make as strong or stronger a case for the other goalies on the list. Yes, he played more games than nearly all goalies and his teammates got blanked a lot, but 28 regulation losses is still a high number for a Hart winner.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Pro: What place, at best, would the Predators be in the standings without Rinne? The Finn was top three in goals-against and save percentage with six shutouts. Nashville's goal support for their netminders ranked in the bottom 10 of the league.
Con: He plays in Nashville. Unless you have the Centre Ice package or surf the internet for illegal feeds, you might not have seen much of Rinne.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Pro: Led the league in goals-against, save percentage, and only Carolina's Cam Ward faced more shots per game on average. Just 11 regulation losses in 57 starts.
Con: It's not the fault of Thomas that Boston has one of the best No. 2 men in the business in Tuukka Rask. But large numbers can seduce, and the other goalies on this list played seven to 15 more appearances than the Bruins veteran.
Also, the Bruins are probably still a playoff team even without Thomas. Can you say that about the other three goalies on the list?
Alexander Ovechkin, F, Washington Capitals
Pro: Yes, he finished with 14 fewer goals than in any other season, but many a sports superstar has pouted when the team switched to a more disciplined, defensive style. Ovechkin helped lead the way, with a plus-24 rating. After the all-star break, he registered points in 75 per cent of his games. There's also something to be said for the fact that he registered the highest percentage of even-strength points in his career.
Con: Ovechkin's chances are hurt by a November through early January period in which he scored just eight times in 32 games.
Corey Perry, F, Anaheim Ducks
Pro: The league's only 50 goal scorer. Of the forwards on this list, he had the highest percentage of points not gained on the power play. Set a torrid pace with 19 goals and 10 assists in a late-season stretch of 14 games. You could argue that of all the skaters on the list, his team would have been in the most danger of missing the playoffs without his presence.
Cons: Perry was sensational from mid-February on, but was merely really good in the first half of the season, averaging under a point a game before the all-star break.
Martin St. Louis, F, Tampa Bay Lightning
Pro: At 35 years old, he recorded 99 points, the second highest total of his career. He had a big role in Steven Stamkos once again leading the East in goals. Contrary to what might be assumed, he didn't have lopsided power-play points. In fact, 27 of his 31 goals came even strength. Completed his fifth straight 82-game season.
Cons: Any number of factors. He's taken for granted at this point, he's more of a set-up man, and he's won multiple awards before, including the Hart in 2004.
Daniel Sedin, F, Vancouver Canucks
Pro: Career highs in goals, assists, power-play goals, and game winners, and his best shooting percentage since becoming an elite player. Led the NHL with 104 points, and was probably the top reason the Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy for top regular season record.
Con: If not the deepest team in the league, Vancouver is up there. When he missed significant time in 2009-10, the Canucks still finished with 103 points. Every year, it seems, the question is raised whether the MVP should go to the player who takes an already quite good team to the top, or a player who is the primary reason his club is in the playoffs.
Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay Lightning
Pro: Stamkos is a chic candidate due to his late-season push, but why shouldn't first-half games count just as much? He scored 21 goals in the first 23 games and people were even talking about the possibility of 50 goals in 50 games. Again finished atop the Eastern Conference leaderboard in goals (this time in sole possession).
Con: Last impressions are important, and while there might have been some bumps and bruises we don't know about it, he had just seven goals in 31 games after the all-star break.