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Believe it or not, the start of the NHL regular season is just about a week away. No, seriously, we're not kidding. We know the leaves haven't turned and summer doesn't actually end until today, but what the heck, it's been, what, at least three or four weeks since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, right?

Then again, maybe that short offseason helps keep the NHL fresh in SportsNation's mind. A year ago, voters correctly predicted the Red Wings to win the Western Conference and made the Penguins their second choice, behind the Red Wings, to win it all.

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and ESPN.com writer Scott Burnside stopped by chat Monday to help SportsNation get its ice legs before jetting off to Europe (Burnside to Stockholm for the Red Wings and Blues and Kane to Helsinki for the Blackhawks and Panthers).

Jason (Ellicott City, MD)

You are only rated an 86 in NHL. What is up with that?

Patrick Kane
c

I think an 86 is pretty good to be honest with you. I think the highest are Crosby and 94 and Ovechkin at 92. I thought I'd be better than Teows, but I am still on the cover. I got him by that. Full transcript

AJ (Champaign, Ill.)

How do the Blackhawks avoid a lull in their performance after they return from Finland?

Scott Burnside
c

AJ; Good question. The European experiment has been decidedly mixed in terms of how it affects teams. All four coaches who went last year got fired although the Pens did end up winning a Cup. I think the 'Hawks' youth and the nice steady hand of head coach Joel Quenneville will keep them from going off the rails when they get back from Finland. Full transcript

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Earlier this week, Tony Kornheiser joked on "PTI" that Sidney Crosby ought to pull up to Alex Ovechkin's house and honk away until his rival came out to admire the Stanley Cup. The only problem is Ovechkin could now answer the door with his arms full of Hart Trophies.

A week after the Penguins stunned the Red Wings in Detroit, NHL luminaries gathered in Las Vegas (Las Vegas?) to hand out the season's other hardware. Winners included Columbus goalie Steve Mason as top rookie, Boston's Zdeno Chara as biggest human on skates (and best defenseman) and fellow Beantown resident Tim Thomas as top goalie.

They also included Ovechkin, who became the first player since Dominik Hasek more than a decade ago to win the Hart Trophy in back-to-back years as the league's MVP. And in SportsNation's eyes, winning the top individual honor twice by the age of 23 is more impressive than captaining the Stanley Cup champions at 21.

skas412

Malkin is the best player in the game today when you take everything into consideration (Crosby 2nd, Ovechkin 3rd). Ovechkin is the best offensive player in the NHL and I love how he hits and plays physical, but he can't play a stitch of defense. Crosby is a great player and can play all around, but his defense is just solid at best and his finishing skills need work. Malkin needs work on his finishing as well, but is ahead of Sid in that regard and he has really stepped up his defensive efforts over the past 2 years - especially the past 4 months.

-- skas412
vweaver69

If it were an award for point scoring- there wouldn't be voting. If it were an award for not turning it over- there wouldn't be voting. If it were an award for shooting percentage, shots taken, or assists- there wouldn't be voting. It is a SUBJECTIVE award based on perceived value to a players own team. In theory, a player could win the award without scoring a single goal- so don't throw individual stats out to compare.

-- vweaver69

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