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Crosby the clear Hart favorite

Zone start data reveals why it's Sid's MVP race to lose, plus other tidbits

Updated: December 4, 2013, 1:52 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider

Stop me if you heard this before: The Hart Trophy, given to the most valuable player in the NHL, is Sidney Crosby's to lose. Sid the Kid leads the league in points, with 38, and has been instrumental in Pittsburgh leading the Metropolitan Division with 39 points and a 19-9-1 record.

What makes this season's achievement even more impressive is that Crosby is producing without the benefit of many starts in the offensive zone. Where a player takes his even-strength draws can influence that player's production, even if that player is Sidney Crosby.

For example, during the 2011-12 season, Crosby started in the offensive zone 36 percent of the time and generated 4.7 even-strength points per 60 minutes. The following season, it was 31 percent and 4.2, respectively. This season, he has 27 percent of his starts in front of the opposition's net and 2.2 even-strength points per 60 to show for it.

Players who start more of their even-strength shifts in the offensive zone tend to generate more offense than those who don't. A player with just a quarter of his starts in the offensive zone scores a little higher than a point per 60 minutes of ice time. Those in the 30 percent range and above average 20 to 30 percent more production.

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