Hart race wide open

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:27 PM ET

The chants while Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews enjoyed his curtain call Wednesday night reached a decibel level you were sure would come close to matching what the United Center faithful hit during the Star Spangled Banner.

M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!

Over and over again, those three letters were used to serenade Toews after his two-goal outing to lead the Blackhawks to a 6-4 win over the Calgary Flames and increase his team’s winning streak to six games.

The case made by Toews over the past five weeks is solid, but will it earn him Hart Memorial Trophy honours when the season ends?

At this point, it only makes him a candidate.

(If he continues the scoring pace of late, 25 points in 15 games, Toews will be a stronger candidate.)

Right now, though, he’s just part of a mix, which creates yet another great storyline to this NHL season.

Had Sidney Crosby not been sidelined with a concussion in early January — the result of two dubious hits to the head within a week — the award would have been his to lose.

However, right now, it’s a race as wide open as the battle for those final few playoff spots in the wild, wild Western Conference.

Look around, and the cases are strong for so many players.

Daniel Sedin is proving the sibling rivalry among the top-flight twins in Vancouver has reached a new level. He obviously wants the same hardware Henrik took home last season.

Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom continues to prove a fountain of youth exists somewhere and he’s found it.

Toews has dragged the Blackhawks out of their Stanley Cup hangover, Tampa has the incredible one-two scoring punch of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, Corey Perry is having an incredible season for the Anaheim Ducks, during which is good buddy Ryan Getzlaf has battled through injury and up-and-down play.

Even the job Jarome Iginla has done in helping the Flames pull themselves from sitting 14th in the Western Conference in mid-January to now is worth a closer look.

Not to be forgotten is the various goalies who are at the head of the pack, especially Tim Thomas in Boston.

It’s making for a wild race.

Flaming C-Notes

At the end of the season, it’s easy to pick out free-agent busts. To give credit where it’s due, former Flames GM Darryl Sutter does derserve kudos for adding Alex Tanguay, 10-goal scorer Tim Jackman and Brendan Morrison for US$3 million combined ... If Morrison’s knee injury is as serious as it looked while he tried to leave the ice in Chicago, Calgary’s playoff hopes take a big hit. That said, the way he wouldn’t give up to get to the bench — propelling himself on one leg from the furthest corner to the bench — should be required viewing for every soccer player on Earth.

Hockey talky

As a youngster growing up, the name Howie Morenz always had a mythical hold on me as one of the game’s first stars for the Montreal Canadiens. Incredible to think his great grandson, Blake Geoffrion, is in the NHL with the Nashville Predators. Yes, his grandfather is also a legend, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. Also incredible is the fact he is a product of the Nashville minor hockey system ... The New Jersey Devils likely left it too late to turn their season around, but what a difference. They are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games and surrendered two or fewer goals in the last 11 games ... Who would have guessed Ilya Kovalchuk would be that much better under Jacques Lemaire than he was when John Maclean was trying to play a more open system? ... What happens in Washington if the Capitals are toasted early again? Is it possible coach Bruce Boudreau will be axed despite all the regular-season success since he took over? It’s easy to say yes, but worth noting it’s not his job to stop a puck or score on the powerplay ... If there’s any truth to the rumours the New York Islanders were asking for a second-round draft pick for Zenon Konopka, I want to be the fourth-line scrapper and faceoff ace’s agent with that information in contract talks with Garth Snow ... Love the way the Florida Panthers seem to finally have a plan, but it will be interesting to see how they get up to the salary floor next season. Likely players with all kinds of potential bonuses to put them at a high number without actually having to spend all the money ... The Eastern Conference will play a big part in who makes the playoffs from the West. For example, the Chicago Blackhawks have nine more games against teams from the east. Detroit Columbus has six games and Minnesota has five counting Thursday night’s clash. The Washington Capitals has five more games against Western Conference teams.

You don't say

“Heard Charlie Sheen had an interview I missed tonight, damn! He might be the only person in the world thats #winning more than us right now.”

San Jose Sharks witty rookie Logan Couture

Farm report

Look who’s finally started scoring: Ales Kotalik.

Kotalik — who’s been buried in the minors because of the minimal return the Flames have received for the US$3 million he’s being paid each of three seasons in his contract — has started to light the lamp for the Abbotsford Heat.

Kotalik scored in consecutive games this week. In fact, he’s netted three in two games. He has 13 points and a plus-8 rating in 13 AHL games, proof he has NHL talent.

Defenceman T.J. Brodie is starting to put together an efficient season, now with 26 points and a plus-6 mark in 55 AHL games as a first-year pro.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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