Pick one: Ovechkin or Malkin?
Okay, so it's a question with no wrong answer. But it sure was interesting to watch Evgeni Malkin put on a show with a hat trick Thursday against the Hurricanes on the same day it was announced Washington's Alex Ovechkin was voted by the players as the Sporting News' player of the year.
The showdown scenario put forward by the media (especially television) for the Penguins-Capitals series in the second round of the playoffs was between Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, and it was entertaining to watch the two trade goals in the series. But in Pittsburgh, a more strident debate has been between Ovechkin and Malkin, especially when it comes to the Hart Trophy, voted on by the media for the league's most valuable player, and considering the sometimes nasty rivalry between the two.
In Pittsburgh, it seems as if the matter should be a slam dunk. Malkin led the Penguins with 35 goals, 78 assists and 113 points and was plus-17, and he certainly is a greater physical presence than Crosby. Did you see Malkin pounding a Carolina player on the back of the head during a second-period scrum?
Ovechkin, whose victory in the Sporting News probably telegraphs what will happen with the Hart Trophy, had 56 goals, including 10 winners to Malkin's four, and 110 points. Ovechkin also gets a lot more national publicity for his closet of amazing goals and his antics after he scores them. There also is a sense that Ovechkin plays with a much lesser supporting cast and that Washington's success is due largely to him, whereas the Penguins have more backing up Malkin.
Here's an interesting stat to consider, too: Malkin led the league with 94 takeaways. Ovechkin led the league with 107 giveaways.
Whatever, the timing of Malkin's super game was interesting. Ovechkin gets the Sporting News nod. Malkin's parents are in the stands in Pittsburgh. And did you see that backhand goal? Malkin carried the puck around the Carolina net, turned his back on his defender to shield the puck and zipped an almost no-look shot over Cam Ward's shoulder. The announcer's reaction? "Oh, my word."
Malkin may not win the Hart Trophy (my vote went to Ovechkin), but with 10 goal, including two winners, tied for the team lead, and a playoff-leading 25 points, he's well on his way to being playoff MVP, if the Penguins win it all.
So, who would you rather have? Flip a coin.