All three are very well deserving of the honor, but there is one glaring omission: Claude Giroux.
Both Malkin and Lundqvist are highly deserving of their nomination. Malkin carried his team for a great chunk of the season, topping the league with his 109 points. And without Lundqvist, the New York Rangers likely aren’t sitting with the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, it is a disappointment to see Stamkos in there as a finalist, rather than Giroux. Stamkos had a very fine season, reaching the 60 goal mark and finishing with 97 points, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were nowhere near a playoff team. Giroux’s contributions to the Philadelphia Flyers this year go far beyond the numbers.
Since we love to judge players purely by the numbers, particularly in the case of the NHL Awards, let’s look at Giroux’s numbers first. His 93 points were third best in the league, behind Malkin and Stamkos. He notched 28 goals and 38 of his points came with the Flyers on the man advantage, as well as five game-winning goals.
But much more so than in the case of Stamkos, Giroux’s contributions to the Flyers go far beyond the stat sheet.
This is a team that experienced a major overhaul in the offseason. They traded both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and lost their captain, Chris Pronger, early on in the season to a concussion. Yet, this Flyers team still went on to finish as the no. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, finishing with the third most points.
Giroux is a key player not only at full strength, but does the work on special teams as well. His numbers on the power play speak for themselves, but he’s also a big piece on the penalty kill as well, and is a constant threat to put in a shorthanded goal, as we’ve seen in this postseason.
So far in the postseason, Giroux has taken his game to an even higher level. He put up 14 points in six games, including six points (and a hat trick) in Game 2 against Pittsburgh. His leadership has also been put into the spotlight, requesting the first shift in Game 6 and setting the tone with a bonecrushing hit on Sidney Crosby.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Steven Stamkos. He had a great year. But his team was nowhere near clinching a postseason berth. Giroux established himself as an elite player in the NHL in a season when his team absolutely needed him to step up. That’s the type of season that has “Hart Trophy” written all over it.