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What’s in an “MVP” anyways?

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How does Evgeni Malkin stack up against other top contenders in the MVP race?

NHL: Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There’s officially less than a month left in the 2017-18 NHL season and talk about MVP candidates and the scoring race is picking up heat. Friend of Pensburgh* Paul Bissonnette had an interesting take and perspective

(*We’re calling him that since he favorited one of our tweets yesterday, not a big dealllll)

It got us thinking about the “value” portion of the MVP race and how some can give a boost to a really good player on a so-so team, rather than a really good player on a really good team. Also Biz travels with the Arizona Coyotes and sees a lot of Western teams, so any surprise that 4 of his 5 initially mentioned candidates (Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Blake Wheeler, Johnny Gaudreau) are all out West? Classic west coast bias with that guy, I tell ya.

Anyways, it seems there is starting to be a groundswell of media support building lately for guys like McDavid and MacKinnon and Taylor Hall to win MVP, since they far and away are the best player on an otherwise not-so-great team.

From our perspective, naturally, we turn to the Penguins MVP candidate in Evgeni Malkin. Jason Mackey from the PG had some interesting stats:

As of late Sunday night, Malkin (39 goals, 87 points) was one point shy of Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov and one goal back of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine.

Since Jan. 1, nobody has more than Malkin’s 24 goals and 49 points, and that second category isn’t close; Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid are a distant second with 39 points apiece.

“Confidence,” Malkin said of the biggest thing that has led to all of this. “No injury. I play all year. I feel it. If you score every one or two games, you feel so much better.”

2. If this keeps up, Malkin should win the Hart Trophy. He’s been the Penguins’ best player and has flipped their season from a 19-18-3 mess into a 21-8-1 masterpiece since the start of 2018.

Kucherov has been great, too, but he has nine goals in the same amount of time where Malkin has 24. Plus, Kucherov has 17 fewer points. Isn’t this the most important stretch of the season?

Ovechkin and Laine are incredible scorers. At this point, however, Malkin might surpass them. Even if he doesn’t, they’re wingers who’ve combined for 55 assists – only seven more than Malkin.

It just seems odd that in the MVP debate some will dismiss (or at least not be as impressed) by Malkin because he plays on a good team with a lot of other great players. Sure, Pittsburgh has the league’s top-ranked power play but one of the main reasons they do is Malkin’s team-high 13 PPG. The reason Pittsburgh is having a good season is their record since 1/1/2018. And since that date, Malkin has far and away been the driving force on the team and in the league. That is value often overlooked or seemingly penalized a bit if only because Malkin plays with other stars. Malkin’s so great you can play 8-goal Carl Hagelin on his wing and bump Phil Kessel to a 3rd line and it helps the team feast with their depth. Guys like Malkin and Crosby are the reason to have that depth when they can perform without their most talented wingers.

Some will point out Hall is 31 points ahead of his closest teammate in scoring. It’s an exercise of hypotheticals but put Malkin in Hall’s spot this season and you don’t think he would be similarly as far out in front of all the other Devils? Of course he would. To what extent, who knows, but it just seems odd to credit a player for being a gem among regular rocks when it could be considered just as impressive to see a brightly shining star even if surrounded by other stars.

It’s very difficult to pick 1 player in a big whole league as the MVP. Alex Ovechkin with 40 goals has scored almost 20% of the total goals the Capitals have and is about single-handedly pushing them into the playoffs given some other key players are having down/bad seasons in TJ Oshie, Braden Holtby and even Nicklas Backstrom. Is that more or less impressive than Hall scoring a point in every single game lately? Or McDavid racking up a ton of points on a bad team? Or Kucherov being great early and still #1 currently in the total points race. Or Malkin who has been the league’s most productive player in the second half of the season?

It’s a tough if not almost impossible question to answer because there are not really any right or wrong answers. “Value” is subjective to what you want it to see, and often what you want to see is the guy you see and/or like win. In that vein, Evgeni Malkin probably should be the MVP if he keeps it up. Since he’s 1 goal back and 1 point back in the races for the Richard and Ross trophies, one would think that MVP should be an open and shut case if Malkin wins both. It’s also pretty telling that Malkin is the only player in contention to win both right now. Another correct and accurate take from your pals at Pensburgh.

Poll

As of right now, who should win NHL MVP for 2017-18?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Evgeni Malkin
    (944 votes)
  • 9%
    Taylor Hall
    (125 votes)
  • 2%
    Connor McDavid
    (33 votes)
  • 5%
    Nikita Kucherov
    (77 votes)
  • 11%
    Nathan MacKinnon
    (156 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (add a comment)
    (24 votes)
1359 votes total Vote Now