A week by week look at where the race for the major individual NHL awards stands and which Caps could be in contention.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been red-hot as of late and so has Evgeni Malkin. In his last nine games, Malkin has tallied a whopping 11 goals and 17 points. His current run has some people talking about him contending for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
But if you want to talk about Malkin for the Hart, you have to talk about Alex Ovechkin as well.
Malkin has 66 points this season, Ovechkin has 65. Even with his impressive goal run of late, Malkin still trails Ovechkin in the goal-scoring race 34-32. What's more, Ovechkin's Capitals still hold a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with two games in hand in the Metropolitan Division.
Granted all of this could change by next week. Perhaps Malkin will pass Ovechkin in goals or the Penguins will pass the Caps in the standings which will change the conversation. Until then, however, there's no way to push Malkin's Hart candidacy without thinking about Ovechkin. What he is doing at the age of 32 with a Capitals team in which no one really knew what to expect is more impressive than what the 31-year-old Malkin is doing with players like Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:
In contention for: Norris
Carlson is third among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With two rookies on the blue line and an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.
In contention for: Vezina
Holtby is on pace to be a 40-win goalie for the fourth consecutive season. He would be the first goalie in NHL history to accomplish that feat.
In contention for: Hart
If Malkin is a Hart candidate, so is Ovechkin who has done more with less in Washington this season.
In contention for: Jack Adams
The Caps still hold a three-point lead in the Metropolitan Division despite having two rookies on the blue line, dealing with more injuries than they have seen in years and down offensive years for some of its top players. Trotz deserves a lot of credit for that.