Last month EA Sports announced a campaign to select their NHL 13 cover boy. It was a campaign that had two players from each team battling to advance into a 16 player bracket. Four rounds – and 23 million votes later — it’s down to just two players both fighting to don the cover when the game hits shelves on September 11.
It’s a David versus Goliath-like battle, as Nashville Predators goaltender Pekke Rinne and Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux square off.
In one corner – weighing in at 205 pounds – Pekka Rinne.
Last November Rinne signed a seven-year contract worth $49 million, which was the largest contract Nashville had given out in their 14-year history. Rinne certainly earned it this season, setting a franchise record with 11 consecutive wins and leading the NHL in not only wins, but shots-against, saves and games played.
In 73 games this season, Rinne posted a 43-18-8 record and a 2.39 goals-against average and was one of the best goaltenders in the postseason, despite another second round exit for Nashville. At 29, there’s no question he’s one of the NHL’s best players and will have a long and illustrious career for the Predators.
In the other corner – weighing in at 172 pounds – Claude Giroux.
Giroux was called the best player in the world during the first round of the playoffs, though we think that might have been a little premature. There’s no doubt he’s the face of the Flyers, though. Early this season, Giroux was a favorite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP, but after the Winter Classic he hit a slump that was tough to overcome. He finished the season third in the league in points, trailing only Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos.
During the first round of the playoffs Giroux was on fire and continued to play well despite his team being ousted by the New Jersey Devils in the second round. He still leads the playoffs in goals with eight and is one behind Ilya Kovalchuk for the points lead.
It’s all but certain the Flyers are going to try to lock up Giroux – who becomes a free agent in 2014 – for the foreseeable future.
In such a small market like Nashville, it might be tough for Rinne to wrangle up votes – point Giroux. Playing in a big market like Philadelphia has certainly helped Giroux, who led all players in voting during the first round.
Nashville is a newer franchise, which means it certainly doesn’t have as many enemies as the Flyers. That could certainly help Rinne’s cause as he might get a number of votes from fans in almost every city in the northeastern United States – point Rinne.
As for the social media battle, Rinne doesn’t have a Twitter account, while Giroux gets the word out about the contest on his account – point Giroux. Giroux might also have Twitter-wizard Scott Hartnell on his side, but Charlie Sheen tweeted in support of Rinne last week, so that's a close call.
If we had to bet, we’d say it looks like Giroux has next year’s cover honor all locked up. To choose who you want, visit the NHL’s website now through June 4. Don’t be afraid, there’s no curse like Madden!