As of Sunday morning, the National Hockey league had a three-way tie for the Maurice Richard Trophy. Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos each have 45 goals with seven games left. The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy is awarded to the player or players that have the most goals in a season.
Stamkos scored two goals Thursday night to help the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins 5-3. Stamkos also leads the league in power play goals with 20. The win marked Tampa Bay's 500th victory. He failed to score against the Sabres in Saturday night’s game, in which Buffalo squashed the Lightning 7-1. The Lightning play next against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
If Stamkos wins the trophy by himself this year, he will be the youngest player to do so since Gretzky in 1981-82. Stamkos turned 20 this season, while Gretzky was 21. Of course Gretzky had a league record number of goals with 92 that season, more than double this year's leader.
Stamkos would also be the second Tampa Bay player to win the trophy in the past couple of years (Vinnie LeCavalier won it in 2007). Obviously, Tampa having the top goal scorer did not equate to winning the Stanley Cup that year.
Crosby has not scored a goal in his last seven games. Look for him to break the scoring drought against the Maple Leafs in tonight’s game. The Penguins have beat the Maple Leafs two out of three games this season.
And Ovechkin is Ovechkin, enough said. He won the Richard Trophy last year, so count on Ovechkin to be in the running at the end if he can stay out of trouble. His energy and skill on the ice make him a standout. Unfortunately, he has been suspended twice this season already for inappropriate hits. Washington plays Calgary this afternoon. The Capitals did not play Friday or Saturday night, so they come into the game somewhat rested.
As if the race for the playoffs is not interesting enough, competition for individual trophies and bragging rights adds additional interest for the fans. Some may argue that individual trophies takes away from team play, but for those teams with little chance at the playoffs, trophies keep the fans buying tickets.