Just one day after leading the Rangers past the Ottawa Senators in the first round, and two days after being announced as a Vezina finalist, Henrik Lundqvist joins the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin and the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos as the three Hart trophy finalists for the league MVP. Lundqvist had by far the best season of his career this year, posting a 1.97 GAA (4th in the NHL), a .930 SV% (3rd), 39 wins (3rd), and 8 shutouts (3rd). He has been the consistent rock in net for the Rangers, and he makes a playoff team like the Rangers into Cup contenders.
Stamkos led the league with 60 goals this season –thereby winning the Richard Trophy– and finished second in points with 97. He finished second to Malkin, who led the league with 109 points –winning the Art Ross trophy– and finished second in the league in goals with 50.
If the Hart is truly to be awarded to the player most valuable to his team, than Lundqvist is likely the front runner. Without Lundqvist, the Rangers are not the top seed in the East, and are likely barely even a playoff team. The Penguins have had success without Malkin in the past, and the Lightning didn’t even make the playoffs (although that’s more likely due to poor goaltending).
There is a tremendous opportunity for Lundqvist, who can be the first goalie since Jose Theodore to win both the Vezina and the Hart in the same season. The fact that Hank is a Hart finalist should say a lot about how the voting for the Vezina went. One would have to assume that if he is a Hart finalist, that he wins the Vezina. That makes logical sense, right?