Mid-season award predictions

So it’s the official midpoint of the season even though many teams are around the 50-game mark, well past the official midway point that is 41 games. But anyway, here’s a look at who might, will, and/or should win the respective NHL awards that are handed out following the season.

Hart Trophy: Brent Burns, San Jose- This award will probably go to Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby but Burns is why the Sharks lead the Pacific Division and are in the running to repeat as Western Conference champions. He’s been on the ice for 36 percent of San Jose’s goals, according to puckalytics, which compares to 28 percent for McDavid and 22 percent for Crosby. His 51 points in 50 games leads the team.

Vezina Trophy: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota- What a story this will be. The once forgotten about, cast away to the AHL only to get another chance and thrive goaltender in Dubnyk finally getting his due. He’s statistically been right up there with Carey Price among the game’s best netminder over the past few seasons and he’s been unconscious once again this season. He leads the league in save percentage (.936) and GAA (1.88), and is second in wins (27). The only thing that separates him from the goaltending Triple Crown at the moment in Sergei Bobrovsky, who has one more win than Dubnyk.

Norris Trophy: Brent Burns, San Jose- For all the reasons mentioned above, and then some. He’s having an historic season for a defenseman, and is making a serious push at the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading point-getter. Should Burns win the scoring title – he’s eight points off the current perch held down by McDavid – he’d be just the second blueliner in NHL history to lead the league in scoring. The other is Bobby Orr.

Selke Trophy: Ryan Kesler, Anaheim- Kesler has been Anaheim’s best player this season. He has 39 points in 51 games while his 21:48 of ice time per game is a second behind Patrick Kane for the league-high among forwards. Kesler has taken a league-high 1,119 faceoffs, his 57.6 success rate on the draw third in the league behind Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly among players that have taken greater than 900 faceoffs. Watch out for a late surge from Bergeron, whose offensive numbers aren’t there but numbers on defense, faceoffs, and possession remain through the roof.

Calder Trophy: Auston Matthews, Toronto- In what has been the Year of the Rookie in 2016-17, Matthews stands alone in the race for the Calder. That’s how good he is, and that’s how much higher a level he’s on than everybody else. Forget rookies, Matthews has been one of the top five players in the league this season. He looks like he’s been in the NHL for 10 years. He’s tied with Alex Ovechkin for fourth in the NHL with 23 goals.

Jack Adams Award: John Tortorella, Columbus- The Blue Jackets have broken out this season, emerging as one of the league’s best teams, highlighted by a 16-game winning streak that stretched from November to January. It’s another feather in the cap for Tortorella, whose best known for going into young clubs and getting guys to realize their potential, as he did in Tampa Bay and New York.

General Manager of the Year: Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton- Chiarelli has done a fine job reconstructing the roster in Edmonton, and the Oilers are on track to erase an 11-year playoff drought as a result. Of course, it all starts with Connor McDavid, but a Chiarelli bringing in a number of players over the past two years, such as Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Andrej Sekera, Mark Letestu, and Kris Russell has changed the identity of the team. While he traded an elite talent in Taylor Hall, it’s looked like the shake up the Oilers needed.

Lady Byng Trophy: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis- He’s having his best season yet, with 47 points in 49 games while carrying a Blues team that isn’t as good as years past. He’s done so by staying out of the box, with just eight penalty minutes.

Masterton Trophy: Craig Anderson, Ottawa- Anderson hasn’t played since December 5th, away from the Senators to be by his wife’s side as she undergoes treatment for cancer. However, he’s nearing a return as his wife has completed treatment.

Art Ross Trophy: Brent Burns, San Jose- He’s a long shot but what the heck, let’s have some fun here. I’ll be rooting for the story.

Richard Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh- Crosby has slowed off the pace when it comes to putting the puck in the net after a torrid start to the year, but nobody has really caught up.

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Stat of the Day: Sidney Crosby with no goals in last five games

Sidney Crosby, never known for his goal scoring, was out to a blazing start in the 2016-17 season.

The all-world, all-time great Pittsburgh Penguin pivot had 26 goals through 31 games to begin his season, which was delayed by a concussion suffered days before the season opener.

While Crosby was playing the best hockey of his Hall of Fame career, there was plenty of reason to believe a drop-off – even of the slightest nature – would occur. After scoring his 31st goal in a December 28th Pittsburgh win over Carolina, Crosby had connected on nearly one-quarter of his shots (24.3 percent shooting percentage), an uptick from the 14.3 percent clip he’d connected at over the first 11 seasons of his career. His 82-game pace of 69 goals was well above his career-high of 51.

So it comes as no surprise that Crosby has been held scoreless over his last five games, falling a tad bit off the thunderous pace he’d been on for the past calendar year. Of course, it hasn’t been all bad, either, over those five games, as Crosby has picked up four assists to go along with an even rating. He’s averaged 20:10 of ice-time per game while putting 15 shots on net, recording a shot in every game but Wednesday’s loss to Washington, where the 29-year-old was summoned to take on heavier defensive assignments against a high-octane, explosive Capitals team.

Crosby maintains the NHL goal scoring lead, but has Jeff Carter quickly gaining, as the Kings center scored his 23rd goal of the season on Saturday. Behind Carter is Cam Atkinson, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Alex Ovechkin at 21 while Vladimir Tarasenko and Max Pacioretty have 20.

The Push(es) for 1,000: The Sedins get one step closer

Alex Ovechkin became the 84th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 points on Wednesday night. Four other players are looking to follow him, with Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Sidney Crosby, and Shane Doan all within 44 points of four figures.

Here’s an update of how three of the four that played last night fared.

*Both Henrik and Daniel Sedin inched closer in the Canucks 5-4 shootout loss to Philadelphia. The two connected on the first goal in the way they’ve become best known – Henrik the facilitator, Daniel the finisher – when Daniel scored on a feed from Troy Stetcher at 9:21 of the first period to open the scoring. Henrik got the secondary assist on the powerplay goal, Daniel’s 366th career goal and 966th point.

Henrik picked up his 766th career as he moved within three points of 1,000.

*Sidney Crosby, sitting a 982, was held off the scoresheet in the Penguins 4-1 loss to Ottawa. It’s just the seventh time in 35 games this season he’s failed to record a point.

*Doan was idle as the Coyotes were off on Thursday. Arizona gets back in action on Friday when it hosts Winnipeg.

Stat of the Day: Sidney Crosby with NHL-high 51 goals since last Christmas

It’s been quite the year for Sidney Crosby.

The centerman won his second Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins before leading Canada to a gold medal at the World Cup of Hockey. He’s back to being the undisputed best player in the world.

This season, Crosby has turned into a goal-scoring machine out of nowhere, with 21 goals through his first 26 games of the season. Always a pass-first, 200-foot player, putting the puck in the net was never the forte of the centerman.

That goal scoring streak, in a fact, has gone on for the past year now, as Crosby has piled up 51 goals going back to last Christmas, the highest total in the NHL over that span. The next-highest has been Alex Ovechkin, with 47. After that is Wayne Simmonds, at 39. It’s more than twice as many as the next Penguin in line, Phil Kessel (25).

In the 74 games he’s played going back to last Christmas, Crosby has 97 points, which also leads the way. His 46 assists are ranked 12th with Artemi Panarin and Jakub Voracek.

 

Thoughts Are My Own: Night of Statement Wins

Thoughts after a rare Monday night of games and big wins.

*Start with the New York Rangers. Going into Pittsburgh’s building and coming out with a 5-2 win. Coming off a second loss in a row, losing Mika Zibanejad, it was all Blueshirts after a sluggish first period. We’ll see if they can keep it up.

*Who had Edmonton beating Chicago, 5-0? I’m sure even fewer had the Blackhawks being held to just three shots in the third period.

*Nice win by Nashville, topping Tampa Bay at home. The Predators are 6-2-2 in their last 10.

*Matt Tkachuk with a goal and assist while playing 15:52 in the Flames 4-2 loss to Buffalo. That’s his second multi-point game in the NHL and now has five goals and eight points in 17 games. He’s been one of Calgary’s few bright spots.

*Jake Guentzel the latest kid to splash on the scene in what has been the Year of the Kids so far in 2016. The young Penguin scored on his first career shot 1:02 into Monday’s game against the Rangers in Pittsburgh, the first of two first period goals for Guentzel in the 5-2 loss. A third round pick by the Pens in 2013, the 22-year-old forward had been a force at AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with 17 points in 16 games this season. He had 14 points in 10 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season after he went pro following his junior season at Nebraska-Omaha, where he led the Mavericks to a Frozen Four appearance in 2015 as a sophomore.

*Latest on the Craig Cunningham front. Nothing new but Bob McKenzie had a great piece on Cunningham, his journey to the NHL, and the relationship he holds with his mother, his lifelong friends, and his current peers. McKenzie writes Cunningham is ‘literally battling for his life.’

Game to Watch Tuesday Night

St. Louis at Boston: David Backes faces the team he captained for five years before leaving the Blues for a five-year, $30 million deal with the Bruins in free agency this past summer.

Hat Trick Pick

Victor Rask: The Hurricanes leading scorer has four goals in his last five games, and eight overall this season.

Bruins Face Canadiens for First Time, Scott Stevens Returns to New Jersey, Brian Elliot Faces Blues

Quite a bit to watch on Saturday night as 12 NHL games are being played, including the first game between Boston and Montreal, Flames goaltender Brian Elliot facing the Blues, who traded him over the offseason. Zach Parise and Scott Stevens will make their returns to New Jersey as the Wild face the Devils; Parise, of course, as a player, and Stevens as an assistant coach to Bruce Boudreau.

Here’s the games being played: Toronto at Chicago, 7; N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7; Montreal at Boston, 7; Carolina at Philadelphia, 7; Tampa Bay at Ottawa, 7; Colorado at Florida, 7; San Jose at Detroit, 7; Minnesota at New Jersey, 7; Pittsburgh at Nashville, 8; Columbus at Dallas, 8; Vancouver at Los Angeles, 10; St. Louis at Calgary, 10.

Players to Watch

Chicago: Richard Panik; Don’t look now but Panik is leading the Hawks with five goals in five games. Patrick who?

Toronto: James van Reimsdyk; Will not be playing against his brother, Trevor, as its being reported the younger van Reimsdyk will miss 5-6 weeks with an upper-body injury, as it’s being reported by Scott Powers of The Athletic. The two have played each other just once.

N.Y. Rangers: Mike Zibanejad; Off to a nice start with five points in four games.

Washington: Zach Sanford; The rookie expected to play Saturday after being out of the lineup on Thursday. Will face fellow ex-BC big forward Chris Kreider for the first time.

Montreal: Tomas Plekanec; The 33-year-old center seems to like playing the Bruins, his 46 points against the archrival is the most he’s scored against any NHL opponent.

Boston: David Backes; First game in the rivalry. In 11 games against Montreal, he has four goals and eight points.

Carolina: Victor Rask; The Swedish center leads the Hurricanes with five goals in four games. He had 48 last season, up from 33 his rookie season.

Philadelphia: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; The French centerman is leading the Flyers with a 54 percent faceoff percentage. He’s won 24 of 44 draws.

Tampa Bay: Ben Bishop; The Lightning netminder played 23 games in Ottawa from 2011-13 before being traded to Tampa, where his career has since blossomed. He is 117-53-17 since that deal, with a .921 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. Bishop has twice finished in the top three of the Vezina Trophy voting in a Lightning uniform.

Ottawa: Guy Boucher; Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s a coach. But the Senators first-year bench boss spent three seasons as the head man in Tampa Bay, going 97-79-20. He led the Bolts to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in 2011, his first season behind the bench.

Colorado: Patrick Wiercioch; The defenseman has four points in four games.

Florida: Jaromir Jagr; Jagr coming off his 750th goal of the season.

San Jose: Brent Burns; The defenseman has points in five consecutive games to begin the season.

Detroit: Thomas Vanek; Still second on the team with six points.

Minnesota: Zach Parise; Still hanging on 299. How fitting would it be to get 300 in New Jersey, where he spent the first seven years of his career?

New Jersey: Cory Schneider; Has a .938 save percentage and 2.00 GAA in four games. Going to need to keep it up; the Devils have six goals in four games.

Pittsburgh: Patric Hornqvist; He has four points in five games, second on the team behind Evgeni Malkin, who has five.

Nashville: James Neal; Played in Pittsburgh from 2011-14, had 89 goals and 184 points in 199 games.

Columbus: Zach Werenski; The rookie leads the Jackets in scoring.

Dallas: Devin Shore; The 22-year-old tied with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for the team lead with four goals.

Vancouver: Jacob Markstrom; He’s stopped 68 of 73 shots that have come his way in three games.

Los Angeles: Jeff Carter; His 58.8 faceoff percentage ninth in the league.

St. Louis: Jay Bouwmeester; The defenseman played four seasons in Calgary. His 25:52 average time on ice was the highest among the three teams he played for (Florida 2002-09, St. Louis 2013-present).

Calgary: Brian Elliot; Played five seasons in St. Louis, had a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage in 181 games.

#HatTrickChallenge

James Neal: Hasn’t found the net in four games. Breaks out against his former team.

Game of the Night

Montreal at Boston: It’s never a dull one when these two teams face each other.

Lock to Win

Minnesota: Zach Parise gets his 300th goal against the team that drafted him and the Wild continue to roll.

 

 

Thoughts Are Mine Only: All Hail Jagr

Here are some thoughts as you try not to get trampled jumping onto the Oilers bandwagon.

*Jaromir Jagr scored his 750th career goal on Thursday night, in Florida’s 4-2 loss to Washington. He joins Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801) in the 750 club.

*Jagr is one of the top 10 greatest players to ever play (please don’t ask me who other nine are and tell me to rank them). His career is far and away the most unique. It spanned three different decades, five presidential administrations (provided, of course, he doesn’t pull a fast one and retire within the next three months), played for eight different teams, had a three-year stint in the KHL, was beloved, then wasn’t beloved, then ran himself out of organizations, then fled for the KHL before a sea of dry eyes, then returned, then was beloved. Had a mullet, then didn’t have mullet, then had a mullet again. Yeah.

*FWIW – Last Time Jagr Did ‘BLANK’ Trivia. Last time he won a Stanley Cup? 1992. Last time he won the Hart Trophy? 1999. Last time he won the Art Ross Trophy? 2001. Last time he won the Ted Lindsay Award? 2006.

*Jagr never led the league in goal scoring.

*Great job by Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon setting up the goal by Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson in the third period of the Penguins 3-2 comeback win as he was trying to draw a cheap penalty. Dillon did the classic turn-the-back-as-the-forchecker-is-coming in the left corner as Patric Hornqvist was approaching. Hornqvist successfully separated the puck from Dillon, as the puck soon met the tape on Wilson’s blade and the rest is history. You have to appreciate the honesty of a hockey puck.

*So Edmonton is 4-1, its latest win an impressive 3-1 win over St. Louis.

*The Oilers won the final meeting between the two teams last season. This is the first time since 2009 that Edmonton has defeated St. Louis in back-t0-back games in regulation. The two-game winning streak for the Oilers was preceded by a 1-12-1 stretch against the Blues.

*The loss for the Blues snapped a 10-game streak of getting at least a point against Western Conference opponents. The last time St. Louis failed to come out of a game with a point against a team from the West? A 6-4 loss to Edmonton on March 16.

*The Kings needed those two points badly.

*The Stars aren’t easy to keep up with offensively, but they still have quite a ways to go on the defensive side of the puck.

*The Canucks are 4-0.

*After allowing four goals on 16 shots in a 4-0 loss to Colorado, Lightning netminder Ben Bishop has a .861 save percentage in three games this season.

*Cliff Pu scored a goal and won 17 of 27 draws in London’s 5-4 win over Kitchener in OHL action. Pu has five goals and 11 points in seven while winning 63.6 percent of the 151 faceoffs he’s taken. A third round pick by Buffalo in this past year’s draft, he should be a first-rounder in the redrafts we’ll see sprinkled all over the place this time five years from now. Sabres fans should be happy to have him.

Links

Bobby Orr sat down with Bob McKenzie in a one-on-one interview in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his NHL debut. Worth the 20 minutes and change. Part one is about 13 minutes, part two about seven.

ICYSYUAR (In Case You Spent Yesterday Under A Rock): Matt Murray signed a three-year extension with Pittsburgh.

So does the Murray extension mean the Marc-Andre Fleury era in Pittsburgh is all but over? This one writer seems to think so.

Here’s a very good breakdown by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about what the Murray signing does, may, or may not mean for the future of the Pens crease.

Jimmy Howard adjusting nicely into his new role with the Red Wings.

The rumblings of one Pierre LeBrun.

The Nashville Predators tapping into the robust fountain of Swiss hockey talent.

The talk of college hockey are the new rules, er enforcement of rules, that caused a rash of penalty calls in the first weekend of the NCAA season.