Kovy comes up in Hart Trophy conversation
has played his way into the Hart Trophy discussion. He has his two-way game to thank.
Kovalchuk, who used to be regarded as a one-way, me-first player in Atlanta, has adapted to the Devils' ways and to the responsibilities demanded by coach Pete DeBoer.
Kovalchuk is back to scoring at an elite level as he was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday for posting 5 goals and 4 assists in four straight New Jersey wins. He has 30 goals for a ninth straight season and his 71 points tie him with Phil Kessel for No. 5 in the League.
Kovalchuk's impact, though, goes beyond stats.
He is involved in all phases of the game, including more than a minute per game on the penalty kill, something he has done only once in his NHL career. He routinely gets double-shifted or stays on for a double-shift on his own, but he's rarely caught winded or too far out of position to where he becomes a liability. He leads all forwards in the NHL with 24:40 of ice time per game.
Kovalchuk recently went nine straight games without scoring a goal, but it was barely noticeable on the ice because he was effective in so many other areas. The Devils even went 5-3-1 in those games.