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NHL

Penguins insider: NHL MVP vote is easy: Crosby by a landslide

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby beats Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback for his first goal of the first period Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Sidney Crosby is the MVP.

At least that is how one voting member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association will fill out his NHL Awards ballot in a few weeks.

That ballot is guaranteed to have Crosby's name first among the five to be nominated for the Hart Trophy, awarded to “the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.”

Crosby need not play another regular-season game. He was MVP a week ago when his jaw was broken. He should be MVP when all the ballots are cast.

There really should be no debate.

There was not much of one last season for Evgeni Malkin, who took 144 of 149 first-place votes.

Malkin led the NHL in points (109), was second in goals (50), and the Penguins — without Crosby for all but 22 games because of concussion symptoms — finished with the third most points.

Malkin's statistical dominance was the obvious reason voters selected him as MVP. A deeper dig testified to his candidacy.

The Penguins played 15 consecutive games last season — 18.3 percent of their schedule — without Crosby and Jordan Staal, who would have filled the role of No. 2 center in Crosby's absence.

Malkin produced 14 goals and 19 points in those contests, and the Penguins went 9-5-1.

The MVP race was over for one voter after that stretch, over the course of which Malkin's wingers — Chris Kunitz and James Neal — combined for eight goals and 21 points.

Another 15-game stretch ended this year's MVP race for the same voter.

The Penguins won 15 consecutive games from March 2-30. Malkin missed 10 of those contests, or 20.8 percent of the Penguins' schedule.

Crosby scored four goals and recorded 17 points in those wins without Malkin, and his wingers — Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis — combined for 13 goals and 23 points.

Malkin pushed the Penguins to firm control of a top-four playoff seed during those 15 games without Crosby and Staal last season.

Crosby propelled the Penguins to the top of the Eastern Conference — and a commanding lead in their division — during the Penguins' recent 15-game winning streak.

The Hart Trophy is designated for the NHL's Most Valuable Player, not its best scorer or best player.

Malkin was the best scorer last season, as Crosby (when healthy) has been this season — by a similar double-digit margin. Malkin was the NHL's best player last season, as was Crosby's before his injury.

Malkin's value was illuminated when Crosby and Staal were out of the lineup.

Crosby's value was unmistakable when Malkin was out of the lineup.

There can be no debate. There will not be one for at least one voting member when it comes to the Hart Trophy.

Crosby is the MVP.

The case already has been made.

Rob Rossi, a voting member of the PHWA, is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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