Toews best choice for MVP, Walleye attempting to overcome 3-0 deficit, MacTavish’s impact on Edmonton and Cowen return to Sens’ lineup

Jonathan Toews has consistently been one of the top players in the NHL all season long. (Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

Jonathan Toews has consistently been one of the top players in the NHL all season long. (Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

In this shortened season, there are many players who deserve consideration for the Hart Trophy including a few old favorites in injured Sidney Crosby and the suddenly-red-hot Alex Ovechkin. But, as Stu Hackel of Sports Illustrated points out, both players have only been at their best for roughly three-quarters of the season which may deter some voters. Hackel looks at the 1995 season when Philadelphia’s Eric Lindros was selected as league MVP thanks to consistent scoring (he very likely would have won the Art Ross Tropy as well had he not missed the last two games with an eye injury).

Lindros dominated throughout the season, something Ovechkin hasn’t done this year and while Crosby was having one of the more memorable seasons in recent memory, his broken jaw is keeping him from playing a considerable chunk of the season.

Hackel looks at a few other candidates for the Hart Trophy including Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, the Islanders’ John Tavares and, his pick, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. He also mentions Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, but notes how difficult it is for a player on a team not in the playoffs to warrant consideration. Here’s Hackel on why Toews has his vote for MVP:

The Blackhawks have enjoyed an historic season, and while Kane may lead them in scoring, his margin over Toews is not that great and Toews leads them in every other way.

Plus, Kane doesn’t possess his pal’s all-around excellence. Toews is a plus-25, just one point behind Crosby and fifth in the league. His face-off success rate is 60.8, second best league-wide to Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.

Offensively, Toews is heating up at the right time. He’s notched 19 points in his last 14 games and now has 42 points on the season, tied with Tavares and the Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel for the 10th highest total.

Toews plays in every situation, including both special teams, where he is invaluable. And, of course, the 24-year-old Toews remains “Captain Serious” to his Blackhawks teammates, leading by his words and his example. On Sunday, he once again showed what he is made of during one of the most physical games I’ve seen this season. Toews continually bumped with St. Louis captain David Backes and appeared to be hurt toward the end of the first period. It looked like a leg injury, perhaps his knee. But he came back for the second period after getting medical attention and played a shade under 20 minutes, looking as effective as ever.

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The East Coast League’s Toledo Walleye are attempting to become just the second team in league history to win a playoff series after being down 3-0. Mark Monroe of The Toledo Blade has the story on their first round series against the Cincinnati Cyclones who, in 2010, became the first team to overcome such a deficit.

The Walleye are the seventh seed in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference having finished nine points behind the Cyclones and the Walleye went 4-3-1 against their North Division rivals. It was a double overtime goal by captain Kyle Rogers in Game 4 that kept their season alive and goalie Pearce Jordan was strong in Game 5 making 34 saves on 35 shots. It’s always an interesting story when a team is trying to rally, but the Walleye understand how important it is to take it one game at a time. From Monroe:

“It certainly would be a nice storyline, but we’re not using that as motivation,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “When you’re down three, you have a steep hill to climb. We’ve chipped away, and it’s nice that it’s a series again.”

The Cyclones went on to win the Kelly Cup title in 2010.

Walleye forward Joey Martin, who scored the pivotal first goal in Toledo’s 3-1 win in Cincinnati on Saturday, said there is belief in the locker room that the team can pull off the rare feat.

“The pressure is on them to close that last game out,” Martin said. “It feels good but we just want to keep taking it one game at a time.”

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Craig MacTavish has replaced Steve Tambellini as GM of the Edmonton Oilers yesterday, ideally sending this young and talented team in a better direction. James O’Brien of Rotoworld.com looks at how this move may impact fantasy rosters and what players are now essentially in try out mode to remain on the team.

Sam Gagner is one of the players mentioned as he is having a career season and is an RFA after this season. Still only 23, Gagner “might just match his typical 40-ish point output in 41 games after taking full seasons … to do so.” With a team full of promising young players and overpaid veterans, there may not be room for Gagner is Edmonton, but surely his play this year will convince at least one team to offer him a lot of money this summer.

But maybe they can keep Gagner is they can find a taker for Ales Hemsky and his $5 million cap hit next season. That will be difficult however as Hemsky hasn’t reached 20 goals or 60 points since the 2008-09 season. Meanwhile Nikolai Khabibulin, Ryan Whitney and Magnus Paajarvi are fighting, not just to stay on the Oilers, but for their NHL lives.

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The Ottawa Senators received some good news during a season in which they have been devastated by injury. Defenseman Jared Cowen will return to the lineup tonight as the Sens host the Carolina Hurricanes according to Matt Brigidi of SB Nation. Cowen suffered a torn labrum in October while playing in the American League and his surgery in November was believed to be season ending.

The Senators currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points, very good placement for a team that has gone significant stretches without Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson and Milan Michalek among others. Cowen will give a boost to an already sound defensive team that is second in goals against (2.07) and on the penalty kill (88.4%).

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