Stats make Brad Marchand case for NHL’s Hart Trophy

The numbers don't lie.

Fans react along with Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) after his goal against the Penguins, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, in Boston.
Fans react along with Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) after his goal against the Penguins, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, in Boston. –AP Photo/Elise Amendola

COMMENTARY

With 145 points in 78 games, Phil Esposito won the Hart Memorial Trophy for the 1973-74 season. Esposito was the last Bruin to win the honor that is given annually to the National Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player.

The award is said to be won by the player who is deemed to be most valuable to his team. In recent years, however, the voters have swayed more towards voting for the best player in the league that season, rather than one most valuable to his team.

Brad Marchand very well may be the next Bruin to win the prestigious honor.

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Marchand has developed nicely over the course of the last three seasons. Sure, at times he gets himself into trouble with the league, and has a corresponding reputation that continues to follow him.

Throughout the majority of the 2016-17 season, Marchand has flown under the radar nationally. But thanks to his play in the last month and a half, he’s opened a lot of eyes around the league. People are now thinking more of Marchand as a top scorer and less of a skilled pest.

With the season winding down and the trophy talk as hot as it gets, it’s time to consider Marchand a top candidate for the Hart Trophy. Along with Marchand, Sidney Crosby, Brent Burns, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane are among the top Hart Trophy favorites.

Having the best season of his seven-year career, Marchand leads the league in goals with 37 — already tying his career high set in 2015-16 — and is tied with McDavid for the league lead in points at 79.

On top of his league lead in goals and assists, Marchand leads the league in road points with 49. Marchand also leads the league in goals (27) and points (48) since January 1st.

Not only is Marchand valuable five-on-five, his play on both sides of special teams is key. Among Burns, Crosby, McDavid, and Ovechkin, none average more shorthanded ice time than Marchand, as he currently sees 1.49 of shorthanded time on ice per game. Burns is the closet to Marchand with 1.46 per game.

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Shorthanded goals are another stat dominated by Marchand, who has three. The other four top candidates have failed to register a single goal while shorthanded.

Marchand, McDavid, Crosby and Burns are all tied with 21 power play points as Kane sits one behind the group with 20.

Five of the last six Hart Trophy winners have been forwards with Carey Price the lone goalie to take home the honor after an incredible 2014-15 season.

When figuring out where Marchand fits into the league-wide MVP discussion, the 2017 first-time All-Star certainly fits the mold of being the most valuable player to his respective team. Looking into the relative value each contender brings to his respective team shows that Marchand for the Hart Trophy is a real possibility.

The Bruins have scored 203 times so far this season. With his 79 points, Marchand has had a goal or an assist in 39 percent of those 203 goals.

Where does Marchand compare to the rest of the top candidates?

Crosby (74 points) has factored into 31 percent of Pittsburgh’s 236 goals, McDavid (79 points) 39 percent of Edmonton’s 201 goals, Kane (77 points) 38 percent of Chicago’s 207 goals and Burns (70 points) has factored into 36 percent of San Jose’s 193 goals.

Gauging how valuable each candidate is to his respective team by looking at its second-highest point scorer to see their goal factor percentage again shows that Marchand is just as valuable to his team as any other Hart Trophy candidate.

Second on the Penguins in scoring is Evgeni Malkin whose 72 points factored into 30 percent of the Penguins goals. Following suit, Leon Draisaitl’s 61 points has factored into 30 percent of the Oilers goals while Artemi Panarin’s (Chicago) 63 points, and Joe Pavelski’s (San Jose) 63 points have accounted for 30 percent and 33 percent respectively.

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David Pastrnak’s 63 points have factored into 31 percent of the Bruins’ 203 goals.

Looking back at the last five forwards to win the award, you’ll find Marchand is not too far off from their individual value to their respective teams. Kane’s (2016) 45 percent, Crosby’s (2014) 43 percent, Alexander Ovechkin’s (2013) 38 percent, Malkin’s (2012) 40 percent and Corey Perry’s (2011) 42 percent are all within reach for Marchand who still has 11 more games to increase his stats.

With the Bruins’ season on the line over the course of the last three weeks, which has seen Claude Julien replaced by Bruce Cassidy behind the bench, Marchand has done more than anyone could have envisioned. He has nearly singlehandedly put the Bruins on the brink of a postseason return.

In the Bruins’ last 10 games, Marchand has 11 goals and seven assists. His elevated play Monday night in Vancouver was the perfect example of what Marchand has been doing for the Bruins of late: His third period hat trick helped the Bruins erase a 3-2 deficit and steered them to a 6-3 comeback win against the Canucks in their first of three straight contests in Western Canada.

Marchand may not be the biggest name in contention for the Hart Trophy. But if stats mean anything to you, he certainly has to be a consideration.

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