Cross Checks: NHL MVP

DETROIT -- The Hart Trophy finalists were announced Friday, with Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and John Tavares earning the three spots for NHL MVP. It wasn't surprising to players in the Anaheim Ducks' dressing room that it was an Eastern Conference sweep.

"No way. C'mon," said Ryan Getzlaf, dripping in sarcasm. "We were pretty well aware that it was going to be all East this year. That's just the way it is."

Getzlaf mentioned Chicago's Jonathan Toews as a player he thought was deserving of a spot in the top three, and Getzlaf's teammates believe there's a strong case to be made for Getzlaf as well.

"Hart Trophy -- that's the most valuable player for your team, right? I think Getzy did everything he was asked and even more," Ducks winger Teemu Selanne said. "Obviously, we're always going to get screwed. I was very happy to see Corey [Perry] won that one year. We are not the hockey market."

The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the Hart Trophy and works to make sure there's a balanced geographical vote when dispersing ballots. Of the voters this year, 46.4 percent were from Eastern Conference cities, 32.8 percent were from Western Conference cities, and 20.8 percent were from an international chapter that doesn't cover specific teams. A record 178 PHWA members voted this year.

Since the 2004-05 lockout, the Hart winner has come from the East four times (Crosby, Ovechkin twice and Evgeni Malkin) and the West three times (Joe Thornton, Henrik Sedin and Perry).

The lockout meant a conference-only schedule during the regular season, which could have played a part in the East-heavy results, Getzlaf suggested.

"The only time the media in the East sees anyone in the West is when we play them," Getzlaf said. "You're not going to see our games, the media, staying up to 1 or 2 in the morning to watch."

Colaiacovo ‘jacked’ to be in lineup

With his team's season on the line, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is making a couple of lineup changes in hopes of extending the series to Game 7.

Veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will replace Brian Lashoff, and the return of Justin Abdelkader from his two-game suspension removes Patrick Eaves from the lineup.

It will mark the first playoff game this year for Colaiacovo, who has played in 11 career playoff games, all with the St. Louis Blues.

"I'm jacked," Colaiacovo said. "I can't believe the game is at 8 o'clock. I have to wait an extra hour. It's my first playoff game at the Joe. I love playing in this building."

It's been a frustrating season for Colaiacovo, who signed a two-year deal worth $5 million with the Red Wings this summer. He played in only six games during the regular season because of injuries and coach's decisions and hasn't played since April 14. A strong performance would be the start in turning around a forgettable year for the Toronto native.

"Absolutely. It's the first step," he said. "It's been such a rough season, one that I really want to put behind me after this thing is over. I can really make amends to it if we finish this thing well and finish this thing right."
Jonathan Toews deserved to have been among the three finalists for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.

Case closed.

I'm not taking any counterarguments. My gavel has come down.

The Chicago Blackhawks' captain was the most consistent 200-foot player on the league's top regular-season team. That ought to have been recognized.

Toews was a top-three choice on my official ballot, along with John Tavares and Sidney Crosby. Obviously, not enough of my colleagues with the Professional Hockey Writers' Association agreed, and it didn't take long for the East Coast bias angle to get hammered on Twitter by hockey fans.

Alex Ovechkin, who was named a Hart finalist along with Crosby and Tavares on Friday, had a fantastic second half. The Washington Capitals don't make the playoffs without his furious March and April. No argument here.

And he was the fourth choice on my Hart ballot, so I certainly wanted to acknowledge his terrific season.

But he also was a passenger in the opening month of the season, and to me, that doesn't cut it to be a Hart Trophy nominee.

Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf and Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky deserve mention here, as well. But to me, it comes down to Crosby, Tavares and Toews.

It wouldn't even be a race had Crosby not missed the final month of the season. The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar would have won this thing in a landslide by the way he had distanced himself from the pack before suffering a broken jaw in late March.

Tavares would be a fantastic choice as Hart winner. The center was a wire-to-wire stud in leading the surprising New York Islanders to the playoffs. He has MVP written all over him.

Same goes for Toews. You get greatness day in and day out, consistent minutes, plus he matches up against the opposition's top players and is incredible in his ability to be as effective in his zone as he is near the opponent's goal.

His detractors for the Hart will tell you Patrick Kane devalues his case because Kane was just as important to the Blackhawks' cause. No question Kane had an incredible season.

But did Nicklas Backstrom not also have a terrific season for the Caps? Heck, there are some people who believe Backstrom is the engine that drives that team.

Tavares, Toews, Crosby, Ovechkin, Getzlaf and Bobrovsky: All are worthy of being in the Hart conversation this season.

But my top three has Toews in it, not Ovechkin.