Malkin named finalist for Hart Trophy
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has been nominated for the Hart Trophy, awarded annually to the MVP of the NHL's regular season.
This is the third time Malkin has been nominated, and he is the favorite to claim his first Hart.
The other nominees are New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos.
Malkin, 25, won his second scoring title this season by producing a career-high 50 goals and 109 points. Stamkos was the only player to push him in the scoring race, but he is considered a long shot. Stamkos' Lightning did not make the playoffs, and the last NHL player to win the Hart Trophy despite his team missing the playoffs was Penguins center Mario Lemieux in 1988.
Voting for the Hart concluded at the end of the regular season.
Malkin twice lost to countryman Alex Ovechkin in Hart Trophy voting in 2008 and '09.
Should Malkin claim the MVP award in June in Las Vegas, he would join elite company in Penguins history.
The other Penguins players to win the Hart are Lemieux (1988, '93, '96), right wing Jaromir Jagr (1999) and center Sidney Crosby (2007).
Malkin predicted in September that he was about to have one of his greatest seasons. He worked uncommonly hard last summer in Russia, spending considerable time with Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar to rebound from a torn ACL that ended his 2010-11 season.
The injury served as a wake-up call for Malkin, who was never a summer-conditioning enthusiast.
He entered training camp in the best physical condition of his career and responded with perhaps his best season. Despite injuries to Crosby, center Jordan Staal and defenseman Kris Letang, the Penguins produced the second-most points in franchise history largely because of Malkin's brilliance.
He easily won the scoring title despite missing seven games early in the season because of pain in his surgically repaired knee.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-664-9161.