by PuckStopsHere on 02/26/13 at 02:55 AM ET
In early February I last picked an MVP for the early season. Tomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres was my pick. He was leading the NHL in scoring at that point. Since then Vanek has been passed in the scoring race and his Buffalo Sabres are in trouble after firing their coach.
The MVP race today comes to two players: Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are one and two in the NHL scoring race with 29 and 28 points respectively. I think the main difference between these two players in the quality of teams against which they play. Stamkos plays in the weak Southeast Division. This is the weakest division in the NHL. No team has more than 19 points so far in this division. Crosby plays in a tougher Atlantic Division where his Penguins have 26 points and New Jersey has 24. The last place team in the Atlantic (NY islanders) would be tied for third in the Southeast Division. As a result of a weaker division, Stamkos has played against weaker teams and this difference is more than enough to explain a one point lead. I pick Sidney Crosby as the current MVP.
Crosby is arguably the top player in the NHL. He was my pre-season pick for the Hart Trophy and he is the current leader. I think there is a good chance he could be the eventual winner. Evgeni Malkin's concussion may help Crosby with the flawed calculus of some voters. If Pittsburgh keeps winning with Malkin out, that would help Crosby's MVP chances in their eyes. Reality is Crosby is a talented player who has been the best player in the league so far this season and Malkin's presence or lack of presence does not change that.
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