Posted: Friday November 25, 2005 1:47PM; Updated: Friday November 25, 2005 1:47PM
Vezina (top goaltender)
NOMINEES: Dominik Hasek, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist
Luongo and Lundqvist have dazzled at times, but Hasek's turn-back-the-clock start is impossible to overlook. For all those who thought the old man would have nothing left in the tank (myself included), he's answered with a 1.91 GAA (best in the league), .935 save percentage (second best) and three shutouts (tops in the field). Those numbers would have been stellar in the old NHL. These days? They're as unbelievable as Rafael Palmeiro's B12 shot theory.
Granted, Hasek benefits from playing behind a virtual All-Star team in Ottawa, but the pressure is on the Senators to win it all this year. Hasek has proven he's up to the task.
While some traditional favorites have struggled to adapt to the new style, Chara appears ready to finally claim the prize that has eluded him the past couple of seasons.
He's chewing up both ice time and opponents for the Sens, making the most of his unmatchable physical presence by leading the league in hits and ensuring Hasek has little traffic to contend with in front of his net. As the Sens continue their inexorable march towards the Cup, don't be surprised to hear Chara's name pop up in Hart Trophy conversations.
Hart (most valuable player)
NOMINEES: Dany Heatley, Peter Forsberg, Eric Staal
Looking quite comfortable in the Flyers jersey he hasn't worn since being drafted in 1991, Forsberg has been virtually unstoppable in the early going. The move back to the Eastern Conference has reinvigorated the 2003 MVP, who is at the top of both his physical and creative games with Cup-contending Philadelphia.
Nowhere is Forsberg's impact more obvious than in the emergence of his linemate Simon Gagne as the league's most lethal sniper. His success can be traced directly to Forsberg, whose preternatural passing skills have gifted Gagne with more open nets than anyone should see outside of practice.
It seems unlikely that his battered body will be able to keep up this blistering 150-point pace through 82 games, but ill health looks like the only thing capable of slowing Forsberg this season.