Daniel Spevak is a writer for The Checking Line - Flyers Edition. This is a part of a multi-part series breaking down the potential finalists for the NHL's annual awards.
The Hart Trophy is awarded to the player deemed to be the most valuable each season.
While a lot of players fit the bill of being good and are capable of putting up statistics, only a handful fit the description of being the most valuable to their respective teams. Here are the players that have been keys to their club’s success.
Phil Kessel - Toronto Maple Leafs
Kessel has had quite the season. He’s tied for fifth in the league with 80 points, and has a career-hi...
Tuukka Rask is good at getting in the way of things.
The Flyers were on the verge of another third period comeback, but it was Rask who stood in their way. He also stood in the way of 49 shots, leading the Bruins to a 4-3 shootout win at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.
Rask proved why Boston gave him an extension in the offseason. Rask was also the reason Boston skated away with two points.
He fought off an Flyers onslaught in the third period. Philadelphia out-shot Boston 52-30 on the game, including 17-6 in the third period and 8-1 in overtime.
(Photo: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask stops Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek in the shootout. AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
With Claude Giroux’s MVP like performance, Steve Mason’s impressive play in net, the domination of Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier’s consistent maturity, it has been hard to think of anything negative about this Flyers team.
And why would you want to?
But unfortunately Jakub Voracek had a rather rough performance immediately after the Olympics which seemed to be a carryover of his inconsistent play through January. With just six goals in January and the very beginning of February and three goals after the Olympic break up until last Saturday, it is clear that Voracek has had his struggles.
The Flyers are on the right track to make the playoffs, and it's Claude Giroux who is leading them there.
Giroux added another three points to his season total, helping the Flyers to a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Friday. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Flyers, putting them back in the playoff hunt.
The Flyers scored first, and came at the Maple Leafs early. It was the exact opposite of their effort against the Rangers on Wednesday.
The Flyers continue their hot streak against some of the NHL's top contenders, a run that has come to a surprise.
Despite facing a barrage of shots, the Flyers penalty kill and Steve Mason hold off the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon. It was the fifth straight win for the Flyers, who are 12-2-1 since Feb. 1.
“We’ve proven that we’re a good hockey team," Mason told reporters. "We’re beating teams that come playoff time you’re going to have to go through to the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup. Guys are gaining confidence from this so it’s a good sign.”
At times, big leads prove to be more difficult to contain than one goal leads. On December 15, the Philadelphia Flyers lost a 4-1 lead en-route to a 5-4 shootout loss to these same scrappy Washington Capitals.
This time, almost blowing a 4-0 lead on home ice, the Flyers survived a difficult third period to overtake the Caps 6-4 on Wednesday night. It was the Flyers' seventh win in the last eight games, Sharks blowout aside.
It has not been a fun year for new Flyer Vincent Lecavalier. Once a long-standing captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, his contract became a boat anchor under a new CBA and a constricted salary cap. Thus, his time as a full-time Floridian came to an end.
Suitors abounded for this man's services after news of his release. Lecavalier, a first overall pick back in 1998, and once described as the "Michael Jordan of hockey," had a spot on many rosters across the NHL at a bit of a subdued monetary rate.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren disregarded this, became the highest bidder, and signed a five-year pact worth $22.5 million. 14 goals, 12 assists and 49 games later, fan impatience hit a crescendo when he went long stretches with nary a point to show for it. In a time where nobody was scoring, Lecavalier scored five of his goals during that span.
The Philadelphia Flyers had a rough night on Thursday.
Following a 7-3 drubbing to the San Jose Sharks, the mood in the locker room was filled with disappointment and confusion. Both Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell said after the game that they don't know where it went wrong, but they needed to get back to playing their style of hockey.
Or as Hartnell worded it, "Flyers hockey."
(Photo: Vincent Lecavalier (front) and Kimmo Timonen celebrate after Lecavalier's game-winning goal on Sunday. AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)