Nick and Pete recap the Ottawa Senators coaching hire, two extensions, the latest rumors and the 2019 Western Conference Final while teasing their 2019 Stanley Cup Final preview.
Nick, Colby and Pete assess the Philadelphia Flyers’ hiring of Alain Vigneault, the Los Angeles Kings’ hiring of Todd McLellan, where does this leave the Buffalo Sabres in their search for a head coach, as well as some of the good (CBJ and NYI sweep), bad and ugly from the ongoing First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I thought about posting Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” but decided instead to write about hockey.
There’s only three games on the schedule this evening, which makes choosing the featured game a breeze. Pittsburgh at Columbus (NHLN/SN/TVAS) starts things off at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by Colorado at Carolina. Finally, Florida at Anaheim (SN1) drops the puck at 10 p.m. as tonight’s nightcap. All times eastern.
It is with great deliberation that we will feature Pittsburgh at Columbus for the third time this season in as many meetings.
Winners of its past two games, Pittsburgh makes its second trip of the season to Nationwide Arena with a 36-13-7 record, which is good enough for second place in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have been magnificent with the puck on their stick this season, as they’ve buried 199 goals so far – the most in the NHL.
Leading that charge has been none other than Captain Sidney Crosby, who’s 64 points not only top the team, but are also the second-most in the league. Of course, just last night he joined the 1000-point club with a three-point effort against the Jets, including taking credit for the game-winning overtime goal. Speaking of goals, that’s another department Crosby heads for Pittsburgh, as his 31 markers are tops in the Steel City.
As you’d expect from the club with the best offense in the league, Pittsburgh‘s power play is a thing of beauty. The Penguins convert 22.2% of opponents’ penalties into goals – the fourth-best rate in the league. Since Crosby commands the even-strength play, Phil Kessel has taken up residence as the power play manager in his second season with the team. His 25 power play points lead the team, even if Crosby has the man-advantage goal-scoring lead with 10 tallies.
If the reigning Stanley Cup champions have one thing to fix, it is definitely their penalty kill. They are ninth-worst in the league when down a man, stopping only 79.6% of opposing power plays. Ian Cole certainly doesn’t deserve the blame though, as his team-leading 32 shorthanded blocks are tied for third-most in the league.
Playing host this evening are the 36-15-5 Blue Jackets, the third-best team in both the Metropolitan and the East. Columbus is a very strong team that plays well on both ends of the ice, but I’m most impressed by their offense. The Jackets have managed 180 tallies so far this season, the fifth-most in the league.
No one deserves more credit for that effort than Cam Atkinson, who leads the team with 49 points. Just like the star forward for the opposition, Atkinson is not afraid to call his own number, as his 27 goals are also a team-high.
Few (three, to be exact) power plays are better than Pittsburgh‘s. The Jackets are the proud owners of one of said power plays, as they convert 22.8% of their man-advantages into goals – the third-best rate in the NHL. Alexander Wennberg has been the mastermind behind that fantastic effort, as his 21 power play points are tops in Ohio, but it’s been Nick Foligno that has been the most impressive. He’s buried 10 goals with the man-advantage, which ties for sixth-most in the league in addition to leading the Jackets.
Both teams have already hosted one game in this best-of-four season series, and both teams can claim a home victory. That being said, the most recent game, which took place at PPG Paints Arena, was nowhere near as dominant a performance as the Jackets had when they hosted. Columbus won 7-1 when these clubs met December 22, but the Penguins needed overtime to win 4-3 on February 3.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Columbus‘ Atkinson (27 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]), Sergei Bobrovsky (30 wins [second-most in the league] on a 2.19 GAA [fourth-best in the NHL] and a .925 save percentage [seventh-best in the league], including three shutouts [10th-most in the NHL]) and Wennberg (36 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (31 goals [most in the NHL] among 64 points [second-most in the league]), Evgeni Malkin (58 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]), Matthew Murray (.926 save percentage [tied for third-best in the league] for a 2.27 GAA [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]) and Justin Schultz (+31 [tied for third-best in the league]).
Vegas has marked the Jackets to win with a -110 line, and it’s hard to pick against that. There are few clubs that can go toe-to-toe with the Penguins, but Columbus is one of them. Pair home ice with a penalty kill that is superior to that of the Penguins‘, and we should see a Blue Jackets victory – even if it’s not by six goals.
- Lindy Ruff (1960-) – Selected 32nd-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, this skater spent most of his 12 seasons with the club that drafted him: Buffalo. With one assist during the 1990-’91 campaign, he claimed exactly 300 points over his career. Nowadays, he’s the head coach in Dallas.
- Luc Robitaille (1966-) – This left wing was a special player. Although drafted by Los Angeles in the ninth-round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, he won the 1987 Calder and proved to be an eight-time All Star. The Hall-of-Famer spent most of his career with the Kings, but he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup in 2002 with Detroit.
- Vinny Prospal (1975-) – This center might have been drafted by Philadelphia in the third-round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his 16-year career in Tampa Bay. He registered 765 points before hanging up his skates for good.
- Drew Miller (1984-) – Anaheim selected this left wing in the sixth-round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s spent the last eight seasons with the Red Wings organization. He’s one of the lucky players to make his NHL debut during the playoffs, and he was even luckier to win the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.
With a 4-2 home victory against the crosstown rival Rangers in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, the Islanders have pulled within a point of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
The game didn’t start the Isles‘ way though, as Nick Holden (Mats Zuccarello and Brady Skjei) took credit for the lone goal of the first period. He buried his wrist shot only 6:23 into the contest to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead that held into the first intermission.
Only 2:43 after returning to the ice, Anders Lee (Josh Bailey and First Star of the Game John Tavares) pulled the Islanders even with a wrister, followed only 3:41 later by Second Star Andrew Ladd‘s (Stephen Gionta) wrister. The Isles took their 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
The Isles‘ third straight goal proved to be the winner, and it was a special one. Only 3:03 after returning to the ice, Third Star Nikolay Kulemin (Tavares) buried a shorthanded wrister to set the score at 3-1. Jimmy Vesey (Rick Nash and Skjei) eventually converted the Rangers‘ power play into a goal, but Ladd’s (Jason Chimera) second goal of the night on an empty net squelched any chance of a late Blueshirts comeback.
The Isles‘ victory snaps a three-game losing skid by home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series and sets the hosts’ record at 63-42-18, four points better than visitors.
Tuesdays are usually some of the busiest days in the NHL, and today features seven games for us to take in. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. when two games drop the puck (Colorado at New Jersey and Vancouver at Pittsburgh [NHLN/SN/TVAS]), followed half an hour later by another pair (the New York Islanders at Toronto and Buffalo at Ottawa [RDS]). A couple more games get underway at 8 p.m. (Anaheim at Minnesota and Dallas at Winnipeg), with tonight’s nightcap – Arizona at Edmonton – dropping the puck an hour later. All times eastern.
- Colorado at New Jersey: Not only is it the original Coloradan franchise against the current, but Eric Gelinas also makes his first return to the Prudential Center.
- Buffalo at Ottawa: The Sabres‘ second rivalry game in four days.
That’s right, we know that Gelinas is making the first return to his original home arena. We try to keep track of everything around here at Down the Frozen River.
That being said, it’s been a long time since we’ve watched the Senators. Let’s take in their game against rival Buffalo.
Sabres fans need not watch the film above. They know what it is.
If there was ever any question of this matchup being a rivalry in the Northeast Division, this game ended that discussion. Only 15 days after Paul Gaustad had a leg tendon sliced in a game against the Senators, Ottawa‘s Chris Neil threw a shoulder at Sabres‘ co-captain Chris Drury‘s head early in the second period of their February 22, 2007 contest, drawing blood. What ensued was a melee complete with scrapping goaltenders Martin Biron and Ray Emery.
Oh yeah, and coaches Bryan Murray and Lindy Ruff were, let’s just say, not happy with each other.
One-hundred total penalty minutes were distributed, and five players – including Emery – were ejected from the game.
To complete the rivalry, the Sens are adamant they didn’t do anything wrong that night. Of course, Buffalo disagrees.
No love lost here. How fitting for a Valentine’s Day matchup.
The 23-23-10 Sabres make their trip to southeastern Ontario in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference. Like I explained Saturday, Jack Eichel‘s high ankle sprain at the beginning of the season threw this team’s offense off its rhythm in a terrible way, as they’ve managed only 137 goals in 56 games – the seventh-worst scoring rate in the league.
If anything can be said for Buffalo‘s situation, it’s impressive how newcomer Kyle Okposo acclimated to his new surroundings. After signing with the Sabres on the first day of free agency this past offseason, he’s done his best to lead the offense with 37 points. The easiest way to do that is by scoring, and that’s exactly what he’s done as his 18 goals are tied with Evander Kane for most in The Nickel City.
Don’t believe for a minute, though, that the Sabres are incompetent, because that’s so far from the truth. That point is made no more apparent than when Buffalo has the man-advantage. Led by Okposo’s 19 power play points, the Sabres convert a league-leading 23.4% of opponent’s penalties into goals. Matt Moulson is responsible for most of those tallies, scoring a team-leading nine times with the extra man.
Of course, a lot of those are given back when Buffalo goes on the penalty kill themselves, as they stop only 74% of opposing power plays – the second-worst rate in the NHL. With his 25 shorthanded blocks, Josh Gorges has tried his hardest to help the Sabres, but him and Rasmus Ristolainen are the only two skaters with more 20 blocks on the kill. Perchance the Sabres trade for a long-term blueliner before the deadline? We’ll see…
Playing host this evening are the 29-18-6 Senators, winners of their past two games to go with the second-best record in the Atlantic. The key to success in the Canadian Capital is no-doubt goaltending, as the Sens have allowed only 142 goals, which ties for sixth-fewest in the NHL.
It looks like Craig Anderson will be the man in net this evening for Ottawa. When he’s been available this season, he’s been the obvious start: his .927 save percentage and 2.34 GAA are not only the best marks on the team, but also (t)seventh and 14th-best in the league, respectively, among the 57 netminders with at least 10 starts.
Anderson is a welcome sight in Ottawa, as his superior play certainly bolsters an average defense. Even with Erik Karlsson‘s team-leading (and third-most in the league) 142 shot blocks, the Sens still allow 30.2 shots to reach Anderson’s crease per game, which is only 15th-best. Just like Buffalo before, I’ll be interested to see if Pierre Dorion makes a move for a blueliner before the trade deadline.
That defense hasn’t stopped the Sens from being one of the superior teams on the penalty kill though. Led by Dion Phaneuf‘s 26 shorthanded blocks, Ottawa properly defends 83.6% of their penalties, the eighth-best rate in the league.
That defensive effort is necessary to make up for Ottawa‘s shortcomings on the power play. Even with Mike Hoffman‘s team-leading 17 power play points, the Senators only convert 16.6% of their extra-man opportunities into goals – the eighth-worst rate in the league. Regardless of how the rest of the team has performed, Hoffman has certainly been impressive: 11 of his points with the extra man have been goals, a total that not only leads the team, but ties for second-most in the NHL.
You wouldn’t know it going off each team’s respective spot in the standings, but the Sabres have already clinched their season series against Ottawa with a 3-0-1 record. Buffalo proved that dominance over the Senators only 10 days ago when the Sabres won a four-goal shutout at the KeyBank Center.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Robin Lehner (.923 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league]) or Anders Nilsson (.922 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the NHL]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (.927 save percentage [tied for second-best in the league], including four shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL] for a 2.34 GAA [ninth-best in the league]) and Karlsson (37 assists [fourth-most in the NHL]).
To my surprise, Ottawa is a relatively heavy favorite to win tonight’s game with a -135 line. It’s hard to pick against the Senators give how well Anderson has played since returning to the ice, but the Sabres are a confident bunch when playing against them. This could be a nail-biter to the end.
- Bernie Geoffrion (1931-2006) – There are good hockey players, and then there are great ones. This Hall of Fame right wing is one of the greats. Playing almost his entire 16-year career in Montréal, he won six Stanley Cups to go with his 11 All-Star nominations.
- Petr Svoboda (1966-) – This defenseman is another player that spent most of his career with the Canadiens. In his second season after being drafted fifth-overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup.
- Sean Hill (1970-) – Habs alumni just keep rolling in. This blueliner was drafted by Montréal in the eighth-round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career in Carolina. He was a member of the Habs‘ 1993 Stanley Cup-winning team.
- Marian Gaborik (1982-) – This right wing was selected third-overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by Minnesota, and that’s still his longest-tenured club. That being said, he’s in his fourth season with the Kings after joining them for their 2014 Cup run.
- Tom Pyatt (1987-) – The Rangers selected this center in the fourth-round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but his longest-tenured club is Tampa Bay. That being said, he currently plays for Ottawa, so let’s see if he can notch his first birthday point in his third try tonight.
- Brandon Sutter (1989-) – Although he’s playing his second season in Vancouver, this forward was selected by Carolina 11th-overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He’s scored 220 points over his nine-year career.
A two-goal third period is just what the doctor ordered for the Rangers, as they were able to beat Columbus 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Only one goal was struck in the opening frame, and it belonged to the home Jackets. Third Star of the Game Brandon Dubinsky (Brandon Saad and Seth Jones) is the guilty party, burying his wrister 8:12 after the initial puck drop.
Only 12 seconds into the second period, the score read 1-1 thanks to a shorthanded wrister from Dan Girardi (Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller), and that’s the mark that stayed on the scoreboard the remaining 19:48 of the frame to set up an exciting third period.
Only 4:49 into the third, Hayes broke the tie with an unassisted wrister, but the contest was once again knotted 7:04 later when Nick Foligno (David Savard) potted a wrister of his own. First Star Jimmy Vesey (Derek Stepan and Nick Holden) provided the game-winner, scoring his wrister with 6:32 remaining in regulation.
Thanks to New York‘s victory, only six points separate the roadies from the 62-40-18 homers in the DtFR Game of the Day series.
By: Nick Lanciani
Tonight is the 2016 NHL Awards ceremony from Las Vegas, so I figured I’d recap every award tonight as they are presented.
Calder Memorial Trophy winner- Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
Other finalists- Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) and Connor McDavid (EDM)
Ted Lindsay Award winner- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Other finalists- Jamie Benn (DAL) and Braden Holtby (WSH)
General Manager of the Year- Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins
Other finalists- Brian MacLellan (WSH) and Jim Nill (DAL)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner- Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers
Other finalists- Mats Zuccarello (NYR) and Pascal Dupuis (PIT)
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award winner- Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Other finalists- Alex Ovechkin (WSH) and John Tavares (NYI)
King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner- Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Other finalists- none announced
NHL Foundation Player Award- Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Other finalists- Matt Martin (NYI) and P.K. Subban (MTL)
EA Sports NHL 17 Cover Athlete- Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Other finalist- Joe Pavelski (SJ)
James Norris Memorial Trophy- Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Other finalists- Brent Burns (SJ) and Erik Karlsson (OTT)
Frank J. Selke Trophy- Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Other finalists- Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Ryan Kesler (ANA)
Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy- Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)
William M. Jennings Trophy- Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)
Jack Adams Award- Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
Other finalists- Lindy Ruff (DAL) and Gerard Gallant (FLA)
Then NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took some time out in the night to remember Ed Snider and Gordie Howe. We had this to say…
Art Ross Trophy- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Other finalists- Aleksander Barkov (FLA) and Loui Eriksson (BOS)
Vezina Trophy- Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Other finalists- Ben Bishop (TB) and Jonathan Quick (LA)
Hart Memorial Trophy- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Other finalists- Jamie Benn (DAL) and Sidney Crosby (PIT)
By: Nick Lanciani
Ken Hitchcock made one lineup change heading into Game 5 on Saturday afternoon and it paid off for the St. Louis Blues as Dmitrij Jaskin’s second period goal proved to be the game winner en route to the Blues’ 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Brian Elliott made 27 saves on 28 shots faced (with a .964 SV%) for St. Louis in the win, while Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves on 21 shots against for a .857 SV% in the loss.
Dallas forwards, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves were doubtful for Game 5 and remained scratched prior to puck drop. Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott were healthy scratches for St. Louis as Jaskin was inserted into the lineup. The winner of Game 5 has an all-time series record of 190-53 (78.2%) among teams entering Game 5 tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven game series. With the win on Saturday, the Blues now have a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Monday night at Scottrade Center.
Robby Fabbri opened up the scoring six minutes into the first period with his 2nd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kevin Shattenkirk (7) assisted on the goal that gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead. A little after halfway through the first period the Stars had answered with a goal of their own from Alex Goligoski. Goligoski scored his 4th goal of the postseason with a wrist shot that beat Elliott at 10:58 of the first period and tied the game at 1. Vernon Fiddler (2) and Jason Spezza (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists.
After twenty minutes of play the score was tied 1-1 and Dallas was leading in shots on goal (10-8), faceoff wins (6-4), giveaways (3-1) and takeaways (3-2). The Blues led in hits (12-8) and blocked shots (5-1) after the first period.
Jaskin scored his 1st goal of the playoffs a little over ten minutes into the 2nd period and gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. Jay Bouwmeester (4) and Scottie Upshall (2) assisted on the goal and St. Louis never looked back the rest of the game. Troy Brouwer picked up his 4th of the postseason on a wrist shot that beat Lehtonen and was assisted by Paul Stastny (4) and Fabbri (8) at 17:42 of the period. Brouwer’s goal put the Blues up by two and gave them a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Leading by two after two, St. Louis also led in shots on goal (19-16), hits (24-23) and blocked shots (12-9). Meanwhile the Stars had an advantage in faceoff wins (17-13), giveaways (7-2) and takeaways (5-2). Through forty minutes of play, there were no penalties called.
A string of penalties were called in the third period in what seemed to be pent up penalty calling anger from the refs as David Backes, Brouwer, Mattias Janmark, Fiddler and Shattenkrik were all penalized within ten minutes of one another for minor infractions ranging from holding to slashing to roughing.
Neither team was able to capitalize on any power play that occurred.
With about four minutes left in the third period, Stars head coach, Lindy Ruff signaled for Kari Lehtonen to skate to the bench for an extra attacker. Despite their efforts with an extra skater, Dallas was unable to convert on their last ditch chances. Stastny ruined the fun for Dallas and their fans with an empty net goal at 18:20 of the third period. His 2nd goal of the playoffs gave the Blues a 4-1 lead and was assisted by Jaden Schwartz (7) and Backes (4).
When all was said and done the Blues had won 4-1 and led in hits (29-26), takeaways (7-5) and blocked shots (20-15) after sixty minutes of play. The Stars led in shots on goal (28-22), faceoff wins (30-20) and giveaways (12-6) in the loss. Both teams were 0/2 on the power play.
Game 6 is Monday night at 8 PM EST, live from Scottrade Center in St. Louis, and can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVAS2 in Canada.
No, this is not the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. Just because Ken Hitchcock, Brett Hull and Lindy Ruff are involved doesn’t mean we’re going to be concerned with skates in the crease. That being said, that game from almost 17 years ago may have been in the back of Ruff’s mind, as he exacted revenge in a 2-1 victory.
There wasn’t much to talk about in the first period. Only 20 shots were fired between the two teams and none of them found the back of the net, even though there were four minutes played of uneven hockey.
Antoine Roussel finally scored the first goal of the series at the 9:36 mark of the second period, as his slap shot was assisted by First Star of the Game Radek Faksa and John Klingberg (his third helper of the postseason). It was a coast-to-coast play, beginning with Roussel advancing the puck through all three zones. From the right face-off circle, he passed cross-ice to Klingberg, who immediately centered the puck for a Faksa wrister that was blocked by Second Star Brian Elliott. Roussel collected the rebound and fired his slap shot over the diving Elliott to give Dallas a lead they would not yield through the remainder of the frame.
Kevin Shattenkirk and the Blues leveled with 8:28 remaining in regulation on a pure slap shot, assisted by Colton Parayko and Patrik Berglund. 3:44 later, Faksa earned his second point of the night with the game-winning goal, a wrister assisted by Ales Hemsky (his third helper of the playoffs) and Alex Goligoski. Once again, it was another rebound off an Elliott block, as after Hemsky advanced the puck into the offensive zone, he passed to Goligoski who attempted a wrister that was stopped, but not covered by Elliott. Faksa quickly advanced on the puck and slid it past Elliott’s left skate before he could seal the crease, giving the Stars their winner.
Dallas certainly deserved to win this one, as they led in shots (42-32; led by Colton Sceviour’s five shots) and blocks (22-11; led by Goligoski’s four blocks). Additionally, they beat the Blues at their own game, as they threw six more hits to impose their will.
Third Star Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 31 of 32 shots faced (96.9%), while Elliott, who saved 40 of 42 (95.2%), takes the loss.
Game 2 will occur at 3 p.m. eastern on May Day, two days from now. That contest may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.
2015 is coming to an end and it’s time for all the awards for this early 2015-2016 season. This Colby’s Corner will be different, as Nick and I will tag team these awards, sharing who we think should win and why.
The Wayne Gretzky Award– Given to the best offensive player
Colby Kephart– Jamie Benn. I choose Jamie Benn because the answer is in the numbers. Mr. Benn is 1st in goals scored with 19 goals, and 2nd in points with 39. Benn is also 5th in assists, but this doesn’t explain what he truly means to this Dallas team. Jamie Benn is the best offensive player of the year.
Nick Lanciani– You’ve got to go with Jamie Benn here, quite simply because he was last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner and is still maintaining a consistent scoring pace. While his counterpart, Tyler Seguin, might have showed signs of slowing down over the last week or so, Benn’s game elevates the level of everyone around him and Seguin will quickly get back into the same rhythm.
Goaltender of the year (sorry Bryz, it’s not you)
CK– Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik is the best goalie in this early season. He is 1st in save percentage and 3rd in both goals-against-average and wins. Lundqvist’s numbers are similar to Carey Price’s MVP season from last year.
NL– Washington’s Braden Holtby has continued to stake his claim in the short list of elite goaltenders in the world. This season he’s got a 1.95 GAA, .928 SV%, and a 17-4-1 record to boot in 22 games played. We said in our season previews that Washington would be a dominant team and Holtby is a dominant force in front of the net. Speaking of the Force, I’m excited for Star Wars…
If Carey Price wasn’t injured, I’m sure he’d be making a strong case for himself this season as he did last season when he took home the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy.
The Bobby Orr Award– Given to the best defensemen of the year
CK– John Klingberg. This young defenseman has proven himself in this season with 30 points thus far, which is crazy. I understand he is on one of the best teams in the league, and plays alongside stars like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But he has 5 goals and 25 assists in just 28 games played, which is more than a point a game.
NL– There’s a reason why I picked up Klingberg on my fantasy team, if we’re talking specific aspects of the game. Otherwise, Erik Karlsson is leading defensemen in points with 6-26-32 totals through 29 games played, so really if you want to split this one into “best two-way/offensive defenseman” and “best defenseman” I’d be able to give both of them an award.
Coach of the Year (so far) Award
CK– Lindy Ruff. At this point, you are seeing a trend that I believe Dallas is a top team this year, and this man is a big reason why. He has made many lucrative moves, like deciding who to play with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It was once Patrick Sharp on the wing, but in recent games it has been Valeri Nichushkin. This kid only had one assist last season but this season has 12 points, proving himself to Mr. Ruff.
NL– Umm, can we talk about what they’re doing in Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Ottawa, or should I just go with a cop out and pick Lindy Ruff as well? I’ll tell you who’s not my coach of the year, but I wouldn’t want a stanchion sent my way between the benches… John Tortorella gets a pass for now with regards to “worst” coach of the year.
But if you want me to say who I’d pick as coach of the year right now (again) it’s got to be Ruff. Actually, just make Dallas earn all the front office of the year awards. Well, maybe almost all of them. Washington would definitely be their main competition. Hmm, actually, would Ruff mind sharing our award with Barry Trotz? Asking for a friend.
Best Team of 2015
CK– Dallas Stars. No surprise here as I am saying that the Dallas Stars are the best team in the league thus far. They lead the NHL with 44 points and their offense is the best with 98 goals for this season. They also have the most wins the league, with 21 wins in 28 games (that’s only 7 losses!).
NL– Well, if the Ottawa Senators get any hotter, I might be picking them soon, but yeah, Dallas or Washington again. No surprise here. Maybe even Montreal, if they can avoid losing nine straight to match their winning streak to start the season. I don’t just want to go with this season’s eventual President’s Trophy winner, so really I’m just trying to add a few more teams to the conversation.
Rookie of the year (until Nick jinx’s him)
CK– Artemi Panarin. 9 goals, 19 assists—this kid has to be considered one of the biggest surprises of the season. I may not know how to pronounce his name, but I know he has been great for the Blackhawks this season and will be competing for the NHL rookie of the year award.
NL– I hate picking a “rookie of the year” halfway through, because usually I end up jinxing them, so I guess I’ll have to be careful with this one. Artemi Panarin, bud, I don’t want to ruin your chances, but if I had to pick who I think will take home the Calder Trophy in June, well, I’ve got to go with Max Domi. I just think that in the long run Domi will be able to overcome the 5 points in scoring separation between himself and Panarin as it stands right now.
With that said, if I’m picking one for right now it’s definitely Panarin. No questions asked. Actually, did anybody think of a defenseman? Oh well.
Patrik Stefan’s Team of the Year– Worst team of the year
CK– Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto fans were excited to win the Mike Babcock sweepstakes and had high hopes for this season. They knew the offense would be affected with the Phil Kessel trade, but no one knew it would be this bad. Toronto is struggling, and I feel they will finish near the bottom of the league this season.
NL– Any team that’s near the bottom of the standings that starts with a “C” is splitting this award. So Columbus, Carolina and Colorado, congrats! You’re losers! But winners in our hearts.
*Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that things are still dismal in Toronto and possibly Calgary, so we’ll see which one of those Canadian teams is in contention for this award at the end of the regular season. They’ll probably have to do worse than one of the “C” teams mentioned above though.
Biggest surprise of year
CK– Arizona Coyotes. The Arizona Coyotes are the biggest surprise of this season as they are making an interesting push to playoffs. They have been bouncing between being the 3rd division spot or out of the playoffs. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are having strong rookie seasons, and have surprised both the league and me personally.
NL– Remember how I mentioned Max Domi before, yeah, well that was intentional. I was leading you to the obvious. The Vancouver Canucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are big surprises this year, with the Canucks currently 2nd in the Pacific Division and well, not in last like I thought they would be after their inactivity in the offseason. I mean, Matt Bartkowski? Really? Then again, it looks like he’s found a home on the blue line defending Johnny Canuck from the opposition.
And Tampa’s currently 6th in the Atlantic Division, albeit a close spread in points, only ten points out of first and two points from a wild card spot, but one would think they would be flexing their muscle this season as they did in their Stanley Cup Final run last spring. If they fall further, they’re definitely the biggest surprise, in my eyes, for all the wrong reasons. Likewise, Jon Cooper would probably deserve some heavy scrutiny, with the whole hysteria surrounding Steven Stamkos’s pending unrestricted free agency possibility.
But if I have to be nice and pick a pleasant surprise, I’m going with either Vancouver- as I already discussed- or Arizona- as Colby already pointed out (and I’m totally hopping on that Domi-Duclair bandwagon by the way).