To be or not to be - that is the question. William Shakespeare may not have been a hockey enthusiast, but his famous words from Hamlet are conveniently suited for the selected nominations in the run for a trophy. This year's Hart Trophy finalists, for an award annually presented "to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team", are Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington's Alexander Ovechkin and one half of Vancouver's double agents, Henrik Sedin.
These three represent 75 per cent of the players who eclipsed 100 points, with Nicklas Backstrom being the fourth, and they drew up brand new references for their portfolio. Crosby scored a career-high 51 goals to tie Steven Stamkos for a Rocket Richard title. Ovechkin, for the first time since his rookie season, potted more helpers than tallies and by a nine-point margin. Sedin apparently took his brother's broken foot in November personally because he accumulated the best offensive numbers league-wide, 112 points, and annihilated his previous benchmark of 82 points.
While these types of statistics are astounding, Ryan Miller has digits of his own that warranted at least a spot on the finalist sheet. His 41 wins, .929 save percentage, 2.22 goals against average and five shutouts were all in the upper half of the top ten goaltending comparisons, and he gained national pride courtesy of his efforts for the United States Olympic team.
The netminder's smooth progression has come against the odds from the day he was picked 138th overall in the 1999 Entry Draft, one of the most erroneous classes in history. He's hardly had the luxury of a truly secure defense in front of him with the veterans struggling for consistency. Miller's fantastic stops are sufficient enough, but what really impresses players and the crowd alike is his composure. His maturity shone phenomenally, which is why the Sabres reached 100 points and attained a Northeast Division title. He's at that special juncture of his career; nothing rattles him, weak shots rarely squeeze by and he can cancel out odd-man rushes with jaw-dropping ease.
A vital statistic which deserves a look for the Hart Trophy is a club's record with and without the player. Sedin hasn't missed a game in the past five years - fitting because he's the forward who I believe should be on the ballot above Ovechkin and Crosby. The chart below will declare how their team's fared when they weren't available and because there isn't a goalie represented, it'll include Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov, who most would agree earned a place for this hardware.
|Player||Year||Record With||Record Without|
Two years ago, a sophomore Evgeni Malkin propelled the Pittsburgh Penguins into the postseason when Crosby was sidelined. The Russian was in a jam this season and Crosby bailed him out by going further in goal production than he ever had. What this illustrates is that one of these two seem to accept ascendancy of their group when the other is hurt or inconsistent.
Washington was spectacular in the ten-game stint they experienced without Ovechkin and if you eliminate his 50 goals, the Capitals are still one of the best scoring teams thanks to six other players who surpassed 20 markers. Pittsburgh and Washington can surely handle an injury to their top forward because of the contributions of a scoring by committee.
Phoenix didn't indubitably depend on Bryzgalov, but their system, which is a great demonstration of helping your netminder's task. Conceivably, if Henrik Sedin went down with an ailment, brother Daniel would similarly take matters into his own hands since they are abnormally congruous. But their strong health creates that as a highly unlikely picture and it's currently indeterminate.
Buffalo's record in Miller's unavailability is under .500 and downright harrowing, not to mention their fall from grace - the playoffs - in 2009 when an ankle sprain shelved him, whereas the other clubs can survive respectably. It's impossible to envisage a strong Sabres crew if Miller isn't between the pipes. Too often, they'd use his strings of dazzling saves as inspiration before deciding to at last compete tenaciously. Hence, why the back-ups didn't stand much fortune in their few starts. On Dec.9, Miller was the first and last goalie to shut-out the Capitals in their season schedule. Think about that, they were fended off totally in just one game out of 82.
I understand you need goals to win games, but a club is nothing without a strong goaltender and Buffalo is one of, if not the most, penetrable team when you erase their netminding. It'd be like tying their hands behind their back and the notion that Miller wasn't selected as a candidate for this award is embarrassing and insulting. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the Hart Trophy with the underlined word meant to be 'heart', and there wasn't a single soul whose heart pumped more blood into their squad than Ryan Miller.