04/28/2012 02:31 EDT | Updated 06/27/2012 05:12 EDT

3 NHL stories, including a desert whiteout

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundvist, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning are the finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy as most valuable player, the NHL announced on Friday.

Lundqvist led the way as the Rangers went from eighth in the Eastern Conference last season to first this year, finishing in the top 5 in every meaningful statistical category. He was 39-18-5 with eight shutouts, a 1.97 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

Earlier this week, he was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goalie in the league.

Jose Theodore was the last goaltender to win the Hart, 10 years ago.

Malkin helped Pittsburgh stay in the hunt for the Eastern Conference title this season despite two lengthy absences of fellow star Sidney Crosby by reaching 50 goals for the first time in his career and leading the NHL in scoring with 109 points.

The only player this season to go over 100, Malkin topped the scoring race for the second time in his career. He will be awarded the Art Ross Trophy as a result.

Stamkos fired 60 goals, reaching that plateau for the first time in his career. He was the first NHL player in four years to reach 60.

He won the Rocket Richard Trophy in the process, an honour he shared with Crosby two seasons ago.

The Lightning forward tied for the league lead in game-winning goals, including an NHL best five overtime markers.

Among the other names some hockey observers believed were worthy included Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick and Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux.

Malkin in the only previous finalist, having twice finished runner-up to countryman Alex Ovechkin.

Malkin can become the fourth Penguin to win the award, following Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Crosby. Stamkos can join teammate Martin St. Louis as Lightning winners, while Lundqvist would be following in the footsteps of former Rangers Buddy O'Connor, Chuck Rayner, Andy Bathgate and Mark Messier.

The Hart is the oldest of the NHL awards, dating back to 1924. It is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The decision will be made public in a ceremony in Las Vegas on June 20, broadcast by CBC Sports.