Josh Elliott is a stay-at-home web editor for Post-to-Post on weekends and a contributor to The Hockey News magazine. From drafts to contracts to trades, he loves the business of hockey and plays nothing but Dynasty Mode in EA’s NHL video games. He’s a Western Journalism grad, a hockey addict and a closet comic book junkie.
It was another night of bad speeches, flat jokes and shiny trophies in Las Vegas, as Carey Price came out the big winner at the 2015 NHL Awards.
Actor Rob Riggle (that kinda funny guy from that comedy you kinda like) had the unenviable task of hosting, as joke after joke bombed in front of a mostly humourless audience.
That said, the most entertaining and merciful moment of the night came when Riggle and the house band interrupted Jamie Benn and his Art Ross Trophy speech that never was.
Commissioner Gary Bettman appeared on stage only briefly, to prod Jordan Leopold’s daughter, Jordyn, into reading that adorable “trade my dad” letter we shed a tear over a while back.
So yeah, the awards were about as entertaining as you’d expect. But it’s the winners we care about – not the speeches.
The big winners are listed below.
And while you peruse the list, don’t forget to check out our THN Awards to see which awards we nailed (and which ones we made up).
You’ve got to hand it to Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper. The man is doing his very best to stage manage his team ahead of their Game 5 performance against the New York Rangers. But in his efforts to take the pressure off starting goalie Ben Bishop, he’s painted a target on another important Lightning player.
Bishop will feel the white-hot Broadway spotlight on Sunday when he gets the start again for the Lightning, after surrendering five goals in each of his last two games against the Rangers.
But now, thanks to Cooper’s pre-game comments, Bishop will share the glare of the spotlight with Ryan Callahan.
Cooper told reporters ahead of Game 5 that he expects Callahan to break his scoring slump and pot one against his old team on Sunday.
“Tonight’s the night he’s going to score,” Cooper said.
No pressure, right?
A hot goalie can take his team deep into the playoffs, but a cold one can also go pretty far with a strong enough team in front of him. A goaltender has won the Conn Smythe Trophy six out of the last 20 years, but we’ve also seen some pretty mediocre performances from Stanley Cup champion goalies.
We may well be in for another one this year. The Ducks’ Frederik Andersen is the only remaining goalie in the playoffs with a goals-against average under 2.00, and the rest of the pack have all had their struggles this post-season. Henrik Lundqvist is just getting over allowing 12 goals in two games, and Ben Bishop just allowed five goals in back-to-back appearances. Then there’s Corey Crawford, who temporarily lost his net to Scott Darling earlier this post-season.
The goaltending hasn’t been great, but does that mean Andersen is the odds-on favourite to win the Cup this year? Or will a mediocre performance in net be enough to carry the Rangers, Lightning or Blackhawks to the final?
The latter is certainly possible. Just look at these five netminders. To quote former Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, these guys were OK. Just OK.
The Chicago Blackhawks have drawn even with the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference final thanks to the double-overtime heroics of one-time healthy scratch Antoine Vermette.
Vermette, who sat out Game 3, returned to the lineup to score the 5-4 game-winner 5:37 into the second overtime period on Saturday night.
Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen did the dirty work on Vermette’s goal, working the puck along the Anaheim boards so Vermette could get wide open and take a swipe at the net from the slot. The Ducks blocked the first shot but Vermette corralled the puck and managed to flip it over Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen from the side of the net, bringing the marathon game to a close.
Three goals in 37 seconds is pretty impressive, but three goals in 10 minutes is just as good.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks combined to score three goals each in a wild third period of Game 4, as the two teams traded leads before pushing the game to overtime.
The period began with a 1-1 tie, but Chicago quickly took the lead on a Jonathan Toews goal made possible by hard work from Marian Hossa. Hossa gobbled up his own rebound in the slot and fed Toews to the left of Frederik Andersen, where the Hawks captain was wide open and ready to bury it in the net.
The Chicago Blackhawks were all over the Anaheim Ducks in the first period of Game 4, but it wasn’t until the Hawks went down shorthanded that they managed to break the game open with a thrilling shorthanded tally from Brandon Saad.
The 22-year-old forced a turnover in the Chicago zone and caught the Ducks flatfooted, darting past a fallen Francois Beachemin and fending off a diving Ryan Kesler swipe before beating Frederik Andersen blocker side with under two minutes remaining.
It’s hard to believe Duncan Keith is playing on the second-best blueline corps in this Blackhawks-Ducks series, but after three games, that is very much the case.
The Ducks are wearing down the Blackhawks with hard-hitting, tight-checking, slow hockey, grinding Chicago’s skill players and hammering their thin defense at every opportunity. And that’s exactly the way Anaheim should be playing, as the Hawks are clearly afraid to ice their third defensive pairing in these playoffs.
Joel Quenneville will try to jump-start his squad in Game 4 by inserting Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen into the lineup again, but those guys won’t address the glaring holes on defense that are more likely to sink this team.
Tyler Johnson is short and good at hockey. After two-and-a-half rounds of watching the guy lead his Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, we’ve been hearing the same thing on every nightly broadcast. He’s pretty darn talented, but he’s not the first small guy to do big things.
There have been several big-game, undersized players who’ve stepped up in the playoffs over the years. Some played back in the black-and-white TV days. Others skated when radio was high-tech. One of them is stilling playing in Martin St-Louis, but we’ll leave him off the list because he’s still not done writing his legacy.
He’s also the same height as Johnson, and as much as we praised these two 5-foot-8 players for overcoming their size deficiencies, there are other historic playoff standouts who were even smaller.
Here are some of the best.