NHL.com recently released their votes for MVP of the league, as the 2017-18 regular season is nearing its end. The top three vote-getters are Nikita Kucherov from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Evgeni Malkin from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Patrice Bergeron from the Boston Bruins. While all three of these players are tremendous and are having incredible season's for their respective teams, are they the three that should really be leading the pack? The short answer is: no, no they don't. Let's take a look at why this is and which players should be the frontrunners.
Did everyone forget the teams they are on?
What I truly don't understand is how so many hockey experts and writers, people who eat, breathe, and sleep hockey, can pick two players from two of the best all-around teams in the league.
I understand that Kucherov is leading the league in points and Malkin has been on fire since the start of 2018, but the question is are they THAT valuable to their team? Obviously without them their teams would be worse, maybe even a good deal worse, but they would be in no danger of being out of a playoff spot. Currently, the Lightning have the one of the contenders for the Norris, Victor Hedman, the leading Vezina favorite, Andrei Vasilevsky, one of the deepest forward groups in the league, and they just acquired Ryan McDonagh. Oh and he plays with Steven Stamkos, who is tied for fourth in the league in points and only eight behind the NHL's leading scorer. Without Kucherov, the worst the Lightning would equate to would be an underdog for the Stanley Cup.
And the Penguins? They have Sidney Crosby, you know, the consensus all-around best player in the NHL for the last decade and a half (obviously excluding when he was injured and arguably these last two seasons with Connor McDavid exploding onto the scene). Still, if Crosby is not number one in the league, he is an extremely close second, and was number one for A DECADE. They also have Phil Kessel, who has 76 points this year. Adding those two and a few great role players and you have the, arguably, deepest forward group in the league (in competition with, you guessed it, the Lightning). Matt Murray is a solid goaltender and their defense has Kris Letang. Yeah, I think they'd do just fine without the Russian dynamo.
The Patrice Bergeron nomination I can at least understand a little bit, but even he has a great supporting cast. Brad Marchand leads the teams in points by 12, with David Pastrnak being second, seven points ahead of Bergy. I know Bergeron has been injured but Marchand has actually played four fewer games than the talented center. So if anyone should be an MVP candidate from this team, it should be Marchand.
These efforts won't get them nothing, their teams should have successful playoff runs, and one of them will likely win the award for having the most points, the Art Ross. It is important to note that the Art Ross and Hart are two different trophies. One is for the most statistically outstanding and one is for the most valuable to their team, all of these guys have a foot in both camps, but all are definitely leaning more to the former.
So, without further ado, here are the players that are most valuable to their team, and should be the frontrunners for the Hart:
Nathan MacKinnon has been unbelievable this year. He leads the Avs in goals (32), assists (46), power play goals (12), overtime goals (three), and game winning goals (ten). What more do you want from this guy? He has accrued 78 points in 58 games and is attempting to single-handedly will the Avs into the playoffs. All season long he has routinely made plays like the one below.
As of right now, Colorado needs one point to grab the second wild card spot. The only barrier to MacKinnon's bid is the possibility of his team not making the playoffs. As most fans would agree, the MVP's team should make the playoffs, otherwise, what value did they serve? If MacKinnon's team can make it to the postseason, he should be a favorite for the league's most valuable.
Kopitar has a lot in common with the other two guys on this list, in that he has been the majority of his team for most of the season and he is still in a heated playoff race. The Los Angeles Kings are tied in points with the aforementioned Avalanche, but have the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, due in large part to Kopitar's play.
Like MacKinnon, the Slovenian-born center leads his team in goals (27), assists (44), and game winning goals (five). The Kings' second leading scorer, Dustin Brown, has amassed 45 points. For those math majors out there, that computes to a 26-point difference between Kopitar and his winger. Also like MacKinnon, Kopitar's bid is dependent on whether his team makes the playoffs. But if the Kings do make it, Kopitar should be one of the players seriously looked at for the MVP award.
See what I did there? With his name? It's funny because the Hart is... you know what, you probably get it. Taylor Hall has been a man possessed by the hockey gods this season. He ranks first on the New Jersey Devils in: goals, assists, points (duh), power play goals, power play points, game winning goals, and is tied for the lead in overtime goals. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
He also has an "official" point streak of 19 games, and has recorded a point in 26 straight that he has played in. Let me repeat that for the people in the back, Hall has a point in 26 STRAIGHT GAMES PLAYED. The Devils hold the first wild card position in the Eastern Conference, mainly due to Hall's god-like play.
Without the former first overall pick in 2010 (thanks again Peter Chiarelli), the Devils would not even be close to a playoff spot, especially given the injuries they've had this season. With 74 points on the year, he's 33(!) points ahead of the second leading point-getter on the team, rookie and fellow first overall pick, Nico Hischier.
Unlike the three current leading vote-getters, Hall is not surrounded by a multitude of other superstars. Hischier is having a great rookie season but is still a rookie, Kyle Palmieri has heated up recently but was inconsistent and injured for the first half of the season, and Jesper Bratt is another rookie, who has cooled mightily as of late.
The Devils have relied on Hall all season long, and he has not disappointed. Even with teams focusing solely on him, he has continued to be a game-changing force. Without him, the Devils would likely be looking at a top-five pick in the 2019 NHL draft with all the injuries and inconsistent play they have had this year. The same cannot be said for Malkin, Kucherov or Bergeron and their teams. Taylor Hart is the MVP of the NHL right now, with MacKinnon and Kopitar right on his tail, and no one can tell me otherwise.