Can Sedin hold off Ovechkin, Crosby?
Less than two weeks to go in this season and the race for the Art
Ross and Richard trophies remain very tight.
The contenders for the Art Ross, given to the league’s scoring leader, features the usual suspects in Washington Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby. Heading into the final days of March, Ovechkin was second overall with 100 points, which marked the third consecutive season and fourth time in his career he’s reached that plateau. Meanwhile, Crosby was third overall with 94 points and should also crack the 100-point plateau this season, which like Ovechkin would also be the fourth time in his young NHL career he would reach that mark.
But leading those two young superstars with 101 points is 29-year-old Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin, who not only found himself in the points lead but his career-best performance (his previous best was 82 points in 2008-09) could put him in contention for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Sedin’s star turn this season was even more notable considering his twin brother and linemate Daniel missed 18 games with a broken foot. Many observers believed Henrik’s numbers would suffer but instead he stepped up his game, signaling his emergence as a late-blooming superstar.
It remains to be seen if Sedin can fend off his two young rivals but with five points in his last two games heading into this week he’s on pace for 110 points and showing no sign of slowing down as the end of the regular season draws near.
At this point it appears it could be a two-man race between Sedin and Ovechkin for the Art Ross, but don't count out a late surge by Crosby.
Bringing up the rear in this race are Ovechkin linemate Nicklas Backstrom (90 points) and Tampa Bay Lightning linemates Martin St. Louis (87 points) and Steven Stamkos (86 points), who appear too far behind the leaders to overtake them at this point in the season.
But Stamkos stands a much better chance of winning the Richard trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer, heading into this week with 45 goals, one less than Ovechkin and two behind Crosby.
After a disappointing rookie performance (23 goals, 46 points) in 2008-09, Stamkos has silenced his critics this season. With 18 points in his last 15 games heading into this week, Stamkos, 20, is on pace to become only the second player in Lightning history to score 50 goals in a season, a feat previously accomplished by Vincent Lecavalier, who in scoring 52 goals in 2006-07 also became the first Lightning player to win the Richard trophy.
It’s not unusual to see Ovechkin in this race, having won the Richard the last two seasons and currently on pace for the fourth 50-goal season of his career, but it is unusual to see Crosby here.
Considered an elite playmaker, Crosby switched to a composite stick this season and began shooting more. The result has him on pace for the first 50-goal season in his career and possibly his first Richard trophy.
Had Ovechkin not missed six games with a shoulder injury and four games to suspensions this season, he would undoubtedly hold a comfortable lead in both races. Unfortunately for him, the awards aren’t based on prorated stats.
Not far behind these three is San Jose’s Patrick Marleau, who has already set a career-best for goals with 42 this season. Marleau remains in striking distance of the lead should the others struggle over the next two weeks.
With those four so close in the goal-scoring lead heading into this week it could be an exciting finish in the race for the Richard trophy.