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Hart Trophy Watch: Tim Thomas enjoying historic season

Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy in 2009, lost the starter's job to Tuukka Rask last season, but is now in the running for both the Vezina and Hart Trophies again. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy in 2009, lost the starter's job to Tuukka Rask last season, but is now in the running for both the Vezina and Hart Trophies again. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

If the Pittsburgh Penguins are indeed suffering without Sidney Crosby in the lineup, they’re doing a very good job of hiding it – and a very good job at making up for it.

Going into Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins have gone 7-3-1, thanks in large part to a four-game winning streak, without Crosby. What makes the Penguins run even more impressive is they won four of five games without both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup.

But as well as they have played, the Penguins were in first place in the Eastern Conference when Crosby went down and now sit as the No. 4 seed. The injury will almost certainly be costly for Crosby personally, likely scuttling his chances for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies, as well as perhaps the Hart Trophy.

In fact, in our Hart Trophy watch, Crosby has been usurped by Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, whose comeback season has been one of Hasekian proportions.

GAME OF THE MONTH: There were two, actually. Thomas stopped 74 of 76 shots, including 43 in a 3-2 victory, as the Bruins picked up back-to-back wins against the Carolina Hurricanes in mid-January.

RISING: Goalie Jonas Hiller has been hugely responsible for the defensively deficient Ducks’ rise to playoff contender status.

FALLING: Dustin Byfuglien has watched his scoring totals wane in a big way, along with the once-robust playoff hopes of the Atlanta Thrashers.

THE HOCKEY NEWS HART TROPHY WATCH
RK.
TEAM
PLAYER
MAKING THE CASE
1
Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas This is getting scary. Thomas leads or shares the lead in virtually every significant goaltending statistic in the NHL. If he maintains his .945 save percentage it would be the best since the league began keeping track of the statistic.
2
Vancouver Canucks
With seven goals and 20 points in his past 15 games, the Sedin who didn’t win the Hart Trophy last season is making a serious push. He’ll have to pick up his goal scoring to stay at the top of the race, though.
3
Pittsburgh Penguins
With Crosby only recently cleared to begin light workouts, his 11-game absence from the Pittsburgh lineup doesn’t figure to end anytime in the immediate future. How much time he misses, and not his performance, will determine whether he stays in the race.
4
Tampa Bay Lightning
With an almost insurmountable lead in the Rocket Richard race thanks to the Crosby injury, Stamkos could also win the Art Ross. Leading the league in both points and goals are two huge ingredients in an MVP recipe.
5
Detroit Red Wings
After a slow start, Zetterberg has been making his way up the scoring race and remains one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL.
6
Anaheim Ducks
Ducks veteran Saku Koivu said Hiller should receive serious consideration for both the Vezina and the Hart this season. He is certainly the busiest goalie in the NHL.
7
Dallas Stars
The pending unrestricted free agent has the surprising Dallas Stars leading their division and he’s contributing points both in terms of quantity and importance.
8
Tampa Bay Lightning
Growing into one of the most respected players in the league, St-Louis remains a franchise player in Tampa Bay and has had a huge hand in Stamkos’ success.
9
Vancouver Canucks
There are those who insist Kesler is the Canucks MVP this season. He is certainly their heartbeat and could wrest the Selke Trophy away from the clutches of that evil Pavel Datsyuk.
10
Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens give up about 30 shots a game when Price is in net, which makes him one of the league’s busier goalies. His save percentage and GAA might not be as good as Thomas’, but all he does is win games.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: We’re still waiting for Alex Ovechkin to barge his way into the Hart Trophy conversation, but time is a factor. There are those who say he’s saving himself for the playoffs and is concentrating more on his defensive game, but we’re not convinced on either count.

DROPPED OUT: Nicklas Lidstrom, Ondrej Pavelec, Dustin Byfuglien.

THN.com's Hart Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Vezina, Norris and Jack Adams.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear every Monday throughout the season.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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