Over the past several weeks, it’s very possible that Evgeni Malkin has wrapped up the Hart Trophy all for himself for this year.
I’m not going to refute the claim that Malkin is deserving of the award. With Sidney Crosby out for most of the year, Malkin has taken his game to another level and has been this year’s most valuable player, leading the league in points.
But the regular season hasn’t ended. Teams have a dozen or less games left, meaning there’s just a little time for a few of the candidates other than Malkin to make their case for the Hart.
One of those guys is Claude Giroux. After a very good season last year, in which he notched 76 points, Giroux has broken into the ranks of the NHL’s elite and now comes with the label of being a superstar for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers went through a major overhaul this past offseason, trading the likes of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who accounted for a large percentage of their offense. Many wondered where the offense would come from with those two gone. No Flyer has answered that call more than Giroux.
Giroux is tied for second in the NHL with his 84 points, despite playing in four less games than Steven Stamkos, who he shares the spot with. He has 26 goals, including five game-winners, and 58 assists on the season. Those assists are at the top of the league, while Giroux’s 35 points on the power play, including six goals, also sit atop the NHL.
He’s also been strong in the faceoff circle, winning almost 53 percent of his draws this season, while taking the sixth most in the league.
With Richards and Carter gone, Giroux has made others around him better as well, which is the mark of an MVP. Few guys have benefited more from Giroux’s this season than Scott Hartnell. Playing next to Giroux has helped Hartnell to a career year, which includes 62 points and an appearance in the All Star Game.
There’s no doubt that Geno is the favorite. But there’s no reason Giroux won’t be a finalist when the NHL’s best meet in Las Vegas for the awards ceremony this summer. He’s proven that his game is at an elite level, and he’s the unquestioned leader of a Flyers team that is making a very strong push as the postseason draws near.