NHL Announces Hart Trophy finalists

Today the NHL announced the finalists for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, with a trio of Russian stars vying for the prize, including last year's winner, Alex Ovechkin, along with Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.

Earlier this season I tinkered with a statistical model designed to specifically answer the question of which player is "judged to be the most valuable to his team," which is exactly what the Hart Trophy is supposed to reward. Basically, it breaks down the total contribution in terms of both Goals For and Goals Against in 5-on-5, 5-on-4, and 4-on-5 action, and also brings in the effect of Penalty Plus/Minus, the ability of a given player to create power plays for his team.

The table below breaks this out in detail for the 15 players who came out at the top of my list, including a leader who wasn't included among the Hart Trophy finalists...

For each of the situations (5-on-5, 5-on-4, 4-on-5, shown below as EV, PP & PK to make the table a little less bulky), we have Time On Ice per game, along with the Rating stat from Behind the Net, which reflects the net impact on a teams Goals For-Against balance from a given player's presence on the ice, per 60 minutes of play (Goals For while on the ice, minus Goals For while on the bench, minus Goals Against while on the ice, plus Goals Against while on the bench).

For instance, if a team scores just as much as they give up while Joe Schmoe is on the bench, but when he's on the ice they outscore the opposition by a goal every 60 minutes, his Rating would be +1.00. It doesn't matter whether he scores that extra goal per hour of play, or his checking prevents that many goals against, so this Rating brings together offense and defense in one measure.

I take the Games Played, Time On Ice, and Rating to come up with an Impact stat for each situation (for instance, below, Mike Green's EV play resulted, over the course of the season, in a total of +25.50 to the GF-GA balance of the Caps this year). EV, PP, and PK Impact are summed up as Total Rating Impact, and then I bring in the aspect of Penalty Plus/Minus. By drawing penalties from the opposition, a given player creates advantageous situations for his team that are independent of the goals and assists that he actually scores.

Again, this measure (outside of the Penalty Plus/Minus part) specifically reflects performance compared to the rest of one's team, so it is ideally suited for an MVP debate.

NAME GP EV TOI EV Rat EV Imp PP TOI PP Rat PP Imp PK TOI PK Rat PK Imp Tot Rat Imp PPM PPM Imp Tot Imp
Mike Green 68 16.79 1.34 25.50 5.14 4.76 27.73 2.46 6.86 19.13 72.35 -9 -1.38 70.98
Pavel Datsyuk 81 13.51 2.13 38.85 3.16 3.35 14.29 1.51 0.27 0.55 53.69 +20 3.06 56.75
Alex Semin 62 13.18 1.78 24.24 3.74 7.28 28.13 1.52 1.65 2.59 54.97 -2 -0.31 54.66
Alex Ovechkin 79 15.94 0.5 10.49 5.11 6.21 41.78 0.92 0.47 0.57 52.85 +7 1.07 53.92
Nicklas Backstrom 82 14.53 0.94 18.67 3.61 6.3 31.08 0.87 3.01 3.58 53.33 -9 -1.38 51.95
Zach Parise 82 13.97 1.32 25.20 3.49 3.37 16.07 0.36 12.34 6.07 47.35 +20 3.06 50.41
Mark Streit 74 16.79 1.71 35.41 4.89 1.61 9.71 2.36 0.1 0.29 45.41 -13 -1.99 43.42
Evgeni Malkin 82 15.03 1.14 23.42 5.06 2.01 13.90 1.06 0.81 1.17 38.49 +23 3.52 42.01
Patrik Elias 77 12.46 0.54 8.63 3.37 3.5 15.14 1.85 5.86 13.91 37.68 +13 1.99 39.67
Nicklas Lidstrom 78 16.57 1.15 24.77 3.62 1.82 8.56 3.22 1.51 6.32 39.66 -10 -1.53 38.13

One thing that makes me pretty comfortable with this right off is that our three finalists are among the top eight in this table. But you'll also notice that Washington defenseman Mike Green is way out ahead of the pack here. His contribution came through in all situations, and for a defenseman playing lots of minutes, a -9 Penalty Plus/Minus isn't bad at all.

It wasn't like his accomplishments were solely offensive; despite a great deal of criticism that he isn't a "real defenseman", take a look at what Green did on the PK. Among players with 40+ games played, and at least 2 minutes per game of PK duty, his Goals Against per 60 minutes of play (2.51) was 3rd best in the NHL, according to Behind the Net. Combine that with his Goals For/60 Min of 1.79, and the Washington PK did just fine while Green was out there.

I know that in general defensemen don't get considered for the Hart unless they had a truly eye-popping season, but in my book, that's exactly what Green has done this year.

NOTE: Another point that sticks out in this list is the number of Washington Capitals players appearing. What this reflects is the concentration of  performance in a relatively small number of players on that team. Basically, the gap between the top end of the Caps roster and the depth players is wider than on other teams.

But regardless of my analysis, your three nominees are...

Alex Ovechkin

#8 / Left Wing / Washington Capitals



Sep 17, 1985

2008 - Alex Ovechkin 79 56 54 110 8 72 19 1 10 1 528 10.6

He is the very model of a modern hockey superstar...

Pavel Datsyuk

#13 / Center / Detroit Red Wings



Jul 20, 1978

2008 - Pavel Datsyuk 81 32 65 97 34 22 11 1 3 0 248 12.9

A favorite for the Selke and the Lady Byng, could he pull off an unlikely three-trophy sweep?

Evgeni Malkin

#71 / Center / Pittsburgh Penguins



Jul 31, 1986

2008 - Evgeni Malkin 82 35 78 113 17 80 14 2 4 0 290 12.1

He didn't just lead the league in scoring, he's the one who put the goofy sunglasses and hat on Ovechkin during the All-Star weekend. That's gotta count for something, right?

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