Monday, April 06, 2009

And, they're into the stretch...the Race for the Ross

Hockey is a team sport. Repeat, “hockey is a team sport.” OK, fine, but as fans we can indulge the “yeah, sez you” kind of bar stool arguments about who is a better player than whom and who will win such and such award. We’ll get to that in the coming days as far as the awards that are voted upon go, but some awards are purely a matter of arithmetic.

Like the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer in the league. Going into the final three games of the season, Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals are in a mano-a-mano, Russian-versus-Russian contest to see who will emerge with the hardware. Can Malkin hold off the hard charging Ovechkin? Can Ovechkin overtake Malkin to win his second consecutive Ross? If so, he would be the first repeat winner since the Penguins’ Jaromir Jagr turned the trick in 2001, only to be come a Cap weeks later.

Malkin enters the final week with three games to play and 108 points on 34 goals and 74 assists. Ovechkin, having played three fewer games, has 106 points on 55 goals and 51 assists. Both players have three games left. And in those three games, there is some relevant history to look at as perhaps a guide to the coming week.

The Penguins will face Tampa Bay, the Islanders, and Montreal. Malkin has had an extremely successful season against this trio of teams…

However, since the All-Star break, Malkin’s pace has fallen off a bit – 15-23-38 in 31 games (a 101 point pace for 82 games, compared to the 120 point pace he was on prior to the All-Star break).

On the other hand, the Caps will play against division rivals Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Florida. Against those teams, Ovechkin has been extremely productive…

And, since the All Star break, Ovechkin is 24-23-47 in 30 games (a 128-point pace, compared to the 105-point pace he was on prior to the All Star break). And it is worth noting that for all the talk of Malkin being the superior set-up man (frankly, though, he is), Ovechkin has as many assists as the Penguin center since the All Star break.

Even looking at their last ten games, Ovechkin is the hotter of the two players. He is 7-12-19 in that span, while Malkin is 4-7-11. You’d have to think that Ovechkin is going to find a way to overtake Malkin in this last week, which should be the last impediment – given how voters seem to think out these things – to winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP. But let’s give credit where credit is due, too. Malkin has emerged into his own spotlight. He has become the top gun for the Penguins, which is no small feat on a team that employs Sidney Crosby in a productive capacity. And if Malkin should finish the week on top in the Ross Trophy race, he will certainly have earned it against the toughest competition imaginable.

It will be the game-within-a-game to follow this week.

1 comment:

Reed-CK said...

I wrote about this last week concerning the goal scoring race and his chance at 60.

I think he has a very real chance of over taking Malkin, and his dominance over the Lightning this season will be the game that puts him over IMO.

While I don't think he's going to get to the 60 goal marker unless he has a hat trick, three two goal games or any combonation you can think of, I do believe he can will pass Malkin this week.

It's just a matter of how many points Malkin gets when he plays the Islanders...