No surprise: Pens' Crosby is an MVP finalist
It takes a team effort to win a Stanley Cup, but it could be argued that one man carried the Penguins into the NHL playoffs this season.
Sidney Crosby, who led the league in goals, is one of three nominees for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's most valuable player and is based soley on regular-season performances.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who has won two straight MVPs, and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, who outlasted Crosby and Ovechkin for the NHL scoring title, are the other two nominees.
The Penguins' locker room is squarely behind its captain.
"He'd definitely get my vote," Penguins forward Craig Adams said. "We know where we'd probably be without him."
Adams didn't elaborate on just where the Penguins would be without Crosby, but it can safely be assumed the defending Stanley Cup champions wouldn't be one of eight teams remaining in the postseason without the 22-year-old superstar.
Penguins backup goalie Brent Johnson, who is one of two players on the roster to play with Crosby and Ovechkin, also supports his teammate.
"He'd be No. 1 on my ballot," Johnson said. "Both of those guys are great, and they're both hard workers. Sid is inspirational. The way he works really can't be duplicated, but it inspires you to work as hard as you can. He's special like that."
Crosby wanted to improve on two perceived weaknesses, goal scoring and faceoffs, this season. And so, after willing himself to become better in both categories, Crosby didn't just improve in those areas but led the league in goals and faceoffs won.
"I don't think people realize just how hard he works," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "He's still here practicing every day, even when people tell him to take a day off. That really does rub off on us. I don't know if he realizes it or not, but we follow him because of that."
The Hart Trophy winner won't be announced until a few days after a more important piece of hardware — the Stanley Cup — is awarded. And Crosby makes it clear that only playoff glory is on his mind.
"It feels good," he said. "I don't really think about the season or reflect on the season too often. I try to be consistent as much as you can. I wanted to score a little more this year. That was something I wanted to improve in, and I think I did."
Crosby's modesty is almost as legendary as his worth ethic, but his teammates are tooting his horn. Especially now, with Ovechkin stunningly eliminated from the playoffs, the hockey world's spotlight belongs to Crosby.
Who will snatch this year's MVP is anyone's guess — Crosby, Ovechkin and Sedin are all worthy candidates — but the Penguins believe their leader deserves the award again - he also won it in 2007.
"He is such a great player," Johnson said. "He is very deserving of that award."
SIDNEY CROSBY — Penguins center
Notable: Finished tied for the NHL lead in goals (51) and second in points (109) for the Penguins, who finished with the East's third-best point total.
ALEX OVECHKIN — Capitals left wing
Notable: Scored 50 goals and recorded 109 points despite missing 10 games for the NHL-leading Capitals.
HENRIK SEDIN — Canucks center
Notable: On the strength of a league-best 83 assists, he recorded 112 points, 30 more than his previous best, to win his first NHL scoring title.