January 17 2012 10:11AM
As the NHL moves past the midway mark of the season, it’s time to look back at which players deserve hardware, based on their performance over the first half. To answer that question, we polled writers from across the Nation Network, talking to writers at every site.
This morning, we unveil the first of our midseason awards: our picks for the winners of the Hart and Vezina Trophies.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Description: The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.
Winner: Claude Giroux
Runners-Up: Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin
While most of the races in our midseason voting were tight, this one was not, with Claude Giroux winning in a landslide. Jason Gregor summed things up nicely when he described Giroux as a “dynamic player,” crediting him with “becoming a big leader in Philly.” With 49 points in 39 games, Giroux is just outside the lead in NHL scoring but would probably still be at the front of the pack if it weren’t for missing time to a concussion.
LeafsNation’s Danny Gray offers a different perspective. While he had Giroux second in his rankings, he gave the nod to Phil Kessel for the top spot. “Last season Corey Perry won the Hart for almost singlehandedly dragging the Ducks into the playoffs,” Gray said in his explanation. “Phil Kessel’s performance in the first half is the biggest reason the Leafs find themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. He has been at the top of the NHL’s scoring race since the first day of the season and has finally produced with the consistency that many said he would never possess. “
Also in the mix: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Sedin, Marian Hossa and Daniel Sedin.
Description: The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position.
Winner: Henrik Lundqvist
Runners-Up: Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick
Our voting gave us a tight, three-way race between three players, with Henrik Lundqvist name the eventual winner. It’s a richly deserved honour for Lundqvist, in the midst of his best season – he has consistently been the Rangers’ best player for six seasons now and has never won the award.
Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick both had their share of supporters, though. As Jason Gregor told me when he picked Quick as his choice for the award, “His 1.93 GAA and .934 SV% are outstanding. If he had any goal support he might be leading the league in wins. In his 17 losses/OT losses the Kings have scored a measly 24 goals.” Tim Thomas, meanwhile, continues to dominate the league the way he has the past few seasons, but strong work by his backup means that he gets fewer starts and his starts seem less impressive in contrast than other top goalies.
Also in the mix: Nicklas Backstrom, Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard.
Descriptions courtesy of NHL.com.