Henrik Lundqvist has a legitimate shot at doing something incredibly rare. It hasn’t been done since Jose Theodore did it in 2001-2002, and only three players (Theodore, Dominick Hasek, Jacques Plante) have done it in the history of the NHL. It requires a spectacular season in net, and a rare season when no skater has pushed to earn the Hart trophy. Hank already has the Vezina locked up barring a monumental collapse. But the only person that stands in his way from accomplishing the rare feat of winning both the Hart and the Vezina in the same season is Evgeny Malkin.
Malkin leads the league in scoring with 78 points in just 55 games. He has single handedly carried the Penguins –who are sans Sidney Crosby– into the playoffs, and has turned up his production during the stretch run. It is tough to say where the Penguins would be without Malkin, but the help of James Neal has certainly taken some of the load off of Malkin’s shoulders. Malkin is making Neal better, and vice-versa. That is one deadly duo in Pittsburgh, and it is driven by Malkin.
Looking at Lundqvist, it is easy to say where the Rangers would be without him: struggling for a playoff berth as a bottom seeded team. Lundqvist currently owns a league-leading 35.9 GVT, which equals roughly 12 points in the standings (PVT). Those 12 points would leave the Rangers with 74 points, and jockeying with the Devils for seventh in the East. Those 12 points has given the Rangers a whopping nine point cushion on Boston and Pittsburgh for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
While some will say that Lundqvist has done it with one of the league’s best defenses in front of him, let’s remember that this is a defense that was without their top player for half the season (Marc Staal) and will be without another top four defender (Mike Sauer) for what appears to be the other half of the season. The duo of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh has taken some of the burden off Hank’s shoulders, but he is the constant on the ice. The current second pairing is Michael Del Zotto, who is having a fantastic year, and Anton Stralman. Not exactly intimidating.
Malkin’s 24.8 GVT is still very, very good, but also trails Lundqvist by 11. That 24.8 GVT equals roughly eight points in the standings, four points behind Lundqvist’s 12 PVT. Those eight points would put the Penguins in a tie with Washington for the final spot.
Both players are the reasons why their respective teams are where they are. Both players are currently irreplaceable on their respective teams. Malkin is sans-Crosby, Hank is sans-offense. Both have a legitimate shot at winning the Hart. It wouldn’t be a shocker to see either one win, as both are deserving. That said, unless Malkin falls off a cliff, expect him to win the Hart, with Hank taking the Vezina.