His point streak was halted after 25 games, his bid for 50 goals in 50 games has taken a serious hit and he’s out of the lineup for at least a week with a concussion, but Sidney Crosby is still leading the pack of contenders for the Hart Trophy.
Missing those games might even jeopardize his chances of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, but as along as Steven Stamkos keeps falling down on penalty shots, Crosby should remain within shouting distance on that front, too.
Who knows, perhaps the week off will give Crosby some much-needed rest. After all, he’s probably pretty tired after carrying the Penguins on his back almost all of this season. With Evgeni Malkin struggling early on and Jordan Staal out of the lineup until recently, Crosby has been shouldering the offensive load in Pittsburgh and when he’s either not scoring or not in the lineup, the Penguins offense goes from double-barreled to pop gun in pretty quick fashion.
Assuming his concussion is nothing more than a mild one, we’re betting Crosby will hold down top spot in this ranking for the rest of the season. Stranger things have happened, but does anyone out there see Crosby letting his foot off the pedal anytime soon?
GAME OF THE MONTH: Crosby scored two goals and added two assists in just 15:43 of ice time in a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers Dec. 28, which ironically was the last game of his 25-game point streak.
RISING: Ask anyone connected with the Detroit Red Wings who their best player is and he will say it’s 40-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom. Give us a break here. The guy’s on pace to score 80 points this season. That’s just not fair.
FALLING: Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings remains among the top 10 scorers in the NHL, but has just one goal in his past 11 games for a slumping team that suddenly finds itself looking up at a playoff spot.
MAKING THE CASE
As of early January, Crosby had opened up a 10-point bulge in the scoring race and the only hope anyone has of catching him is if his concussion keeps him out of the lineup longer than the forecasted one week.
There have been some rough spots, but the last time we checked, Thomas still led the NHL in save percentage (.945) and goals-against average (1.80). On a Bruins team that sometimes has trouble scoring, that’s huge.
The ageless wonder continues to defy all laws of logic. Hey, Nick, you’re supposed to get worse as you get older. Can anyone see Lidstrom hanging them up after he wins the Norris Trophy this season?
Go directly to the head of the class and collect your gold star if you predicted before the season the Dallas Stars would be battling for No. 1 in the Western Conference at the halfway point. Much of that is because of Richards, who continues to contribute important points.
The production has slowed down to be sure, but he’s still the only other 30-goal man in the league besides Crosby and the Lightning have picked up their play.
Dustin Byfuglien has been a beast for the Atlanta Thrashers this season, but Pavelec has provided them with the kind of goaltending that wins games.
All right, we’re cheating a little on this one, but take your pick. Henrik continues to set them up and Daniel continues to knock them in at a prodigious rate for the NHL’s best team.
Any success Stamkos has had this season can also be attributed to St-Louis, who has emerged as one of the best setup men in the league.
After a slow start, he has picked up his offensive production for the Red Wings and is back to being one of the best two-way players in the world. Not that he ever left, but you get the drift.
We keep waiting for Byfuglien to slow down on his offensive production and he keeps making us wait. With Tobias Enstrom taking care of the defensive end, Byfuglien is free to keep letting them rip.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Yes, Alex Ovechkin is not among our top 10 candidates for the Hart Trophy. Perhaps we’ve grown to expect too much, but 14 goals and 42 points at the halfway point of the season just doesn’t cut it.
DROPPED OUT: Ovechkin, Kopitar, Carey Price, Alexander Semin and injured Pavel Datsyuk have some ground to make up, but it’s still early.
THN.com's Hart Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Vezina, Norris and Jack Adams.
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