by PuckStopsHere on 06/28/10 at 02:07 PM ET
The Hart Trophy was awarded to Henrik Sedin last week. I had been picking Alexander Ovechkin and feel that an incorrect choice was made. Sidney Crosby was the third nominee and he was also a strong candidate in the race.
The three MVP nominees all finished with 109 to 112 points (Sedin had 112 and the other two 109). Looking at raw offensive totals there is little difference between them. The difference between them likely has to be found either by showing their offensive numbers are not as close as they seem or by looking at things not reflected in those numbers (primarily defence).
The biggest difference between the three players is their goal totals. Sedin scored 29, while Crosby tied for the league lead with 51 and Ovechkin was one back with 50. Sedin had a far lower goal total and this difference is important enough that i would not have picked him as MVP.
Although, one can look at things another way and argue that Sedin played in the West Conference and his points were harder to come by because the West Conference is better than the East. Alexander Ovechkin played in the weakest division in hockey (the Southeast), but this was not a primary source of his points. Ovechkin scored 29 points against his division (while Sedin had 34 and Crosby led the league with 44 points against his division). Against the West Conference, Ovechkin scored 12 goals and 8 assists in 17 games, Crosby had nine goals and eight assists in 17 games and Sedin, while playing the East Conference, scored six goals and 18 assists in 18 games. This is a small sample size to draw conclusions from, but we can conclude that playing in the West Conference likely cost Sedin points. We also can conclude that even with Sedin’s somewhat enhanced point total, he would still be well behind Crosby and Ovechkin in goals.
Another factor to look at is that Ovechkin played fewer games than Crosby or Sedin. Ovechkin played 72 games, while Sedin played all 82 and Crosby played in 81 games. Thus Ovechkin’s per game totals were higher than either of the other two. Ovechkin missed four of these games due to suspension, so some of this missed time (but not all) is his fault.
In terms of ice time, Sedin played about two minutes per game less than either Ovechkin or Crosby (who were within ten seconds per game of one another). Comparing ice time, a large part of this ice time was power play time. Vancouver played two complete forward units on the power play, while both Pittsburgh and Washington tended to give their MVP candidate the bulk of the power play time with changing linemates. This left Sedin third in power play points among these three (Ovechkin 36, Crosby 34, Sedin 27). Likely that says that Sedin could have had more points had he played as much on the power play as the other two.
In terms of defence, none of the three were superstars. In the Selke voting, Crosby and Ovechkin got a few mentions but finished well back and nobody voted for Sedin. One of Ovechkin’s votes was a much criticized first place vote (how can he be the best defensive forward?). Realistically, there is little difference between any of them in their defensive value. Many people give Sidney Crosby credit for his value in faceoffs. He was 11th in faceoffs in the league with a 56.1% success rate. I don’t put a lot of value in this since all faceoff percentages are near 50% and there is certainly precedent for having a poor defensive season and a high faceoff percentage (see Rod Brind’Amour).
When we look at puck possession type metrics like adjusted +/- and Corsi Numbers, Ovechkin and Sedin are well ahead of Crosby this season, with Ovechkin in the lead. That is a point against Sidney Crosby.
All told, Alexander Ovechkin has the best points per game, though his game total is partly reduced by suspension it is more significantly reduced by injury. Henrik Sedin has the highest point total. Sedin is the player who is most likely to have his point total kept lower because of circumstances outside of his control. However, Sedin is also the lowest goal scorer of the bunch by a significant margin. Defensively, there is little edge between the bunch, although puck possession type numbers clearly place Crosby below the other two and give Ovechkin a slight edge. I think that Alexander Ovechkin is clearly the player who has the highest per game value to his team of the three. A controversy exists only because he missed some games. Nevertheless, his higher goal total than Sedin and his higher Corsi/adjusted +/- than Crosby show better puck possession and should have made him the Hart Trophy winner.
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