Vezina Trophy Watch: Rask pulling away

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With only a week and change left in the regular season, it’s crunch time for those players with their eyes on individual trophies. In the goaltending department, Boston’s Tuukka Rask managed to usurp Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop over the past month, but can he hang on for the final stretch? Here’s our ranking of the contenders.

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

With seven shutouts, Rask is the NHL leader in blankings and when you couple that with 34 wins, a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, it goes without saying that he owns the pole position when it comes to the Vezina.

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Calder Trophy Watch: Palat closes the gap on MacKinnon

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There isn’t much hockey to be played before the post-season takes over and the race for rookie of the year is tightening up. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon appeared to put a hammer lock on the race with his big 13-game point streak, but Tampa’s Ondrej Palat may have something to say about that. Here’s how I see the race right now:

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

The Avs have defied odds and remained a viable playoff team in what was thought to be a learning year and having MacKinnon’s skilled power game has contributed to the team’s devastating balance up front. Nate Dogg still leads the rookie pack with 23 goals and 55 points in 73 games.

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Vezina Trophy Watch: Rask continues to dominate for Bruins

Ryan Kennedy
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As the regular season winds down, the Vezina has become a two-man race with plenty of ammunition for both candidates. Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop play for two great teams and both have been contributors to that success, but only one of them can claim the trophy. Who will it be?

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Does Rask have a better defense in front of him? Perhaps, but he’s still stopping a lot of pucks. The Finnish fortress has surrendered just one goal per game in his past three wins and hasn’t seen the loss column since the first day of March. And in two of his past three victories, he faced more than 30 shots, so he’s not just pulling a Ken Dryden.

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Vezina Trophy Watch: Rask challenges Bishop

Ryan Kennedy
Tuukka-Rask-BOS

The stretch drive is going to determine the Vezina race and it’s almost too close to call right now. Many of the early surprises have either tailed off or simply not garnered enough starts to be counted, while the leader of the pack has finally been usurped.

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Rask surpasses Bishop on several grounds, not the least of which is a five-game winning streak. The Finnish netminder also has the best goals-against average in the NHL at 2.10; a cracking .928 save percentage and six shutouts.

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Hart Trophy Watch: Is Sidney Crosby an MVP lock?

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We’re past the trade deadline and heading down the stretch drive of the season. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf has held the lead in our Hart Trophy Watch in each entry this season, but though he’s still very much in the conversation, he’s stepped down off the pedestal this week.

Here is my top 10 ranking of the MVP candidates today. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

1. Sidney Crosby
The Penguins captain has a 14-point lead in the NHL scoring race, which is hard to ignore when trying to decide who should hold top spot in this ranking. So, while my gut says Getzlaf, my head says Crosby and there’s a good case to be made for a player who’s posted these totals on an injury-depleted team. James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have all missed 10 games or more, but Crosby has continued to pile on the points. There have been 15 games this season in which Crosby did not record a point, but he’s only been shutout in back-to-back games twice this season. Crosby averages 22:05 of ice per game, which is second among all NHL forwards. Read more

Calder Trophy Watch: MacKinnon almost a lock now

Ryan Kennedy
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The Olympic break was nice for most of the NHL’s rookies, but now it’s crunch time and the kids have to beware of the dreaded Wall. That’s when the grind of their first-ever 82 game season becomes a factor and while the Calder race appears to be all but sewn up right now, everyone is going to want to finish strong nonetheless.

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

He just broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for consecutive games with a point by an 18-year-old (13), so yeah, things are going pretty good for Nate Dogg. Not only that, but his last one wasn’t a cheapy: he set up the game-winner in overtime versus Detroit. MacKinnon has a stranglehold on the rookie scoring title with 51 points in 63 games, putting him top-30 among all NHLers, too.

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The best goalie in the NCAA will now win the Richter

Brian Costello
2014 NHL Stadium Series - Pop-Up Hockey Game

The first-ever Mike Richter Award will be given out to the top goalie in the NCAA this year and it’s a wide-open field of 18 candidates.

The creation of the award was officially announced last October by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation, but the field was narrowed down today. It will be presented at the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia, April 10-12.

The 18 candidates were nominated by the 59 coaches at the Div. 1 level of NCAA hockey. The finalists will be determined by a panel coaches, scouts and media.

Guidelines are more than just on-ice goaltending ability. Committee members are asked to consider the goalie’s academic standing, his academic achievement and sportsmanship and his involvement in the community.

Based on on-ice ability alone, two of the favorites have to be junior Ryan Faragher from St. Cloud State and sophomore Adam Wilcox from Minnesota. They’re currently one-two among goalies in fan balloting for the Hobey Baker Award – with 20,300 and 10,588 votes, respectively.

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Calder Trophy Watch: MacKinnon chased by Bolts pair

Ryan Kennedy
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Heading into the Olympic break, most of the top rookies in the NHL will get a unique cooling-off period, where they can assess their performances to date and get some bonus rest before heading into the home stretch. Some even made the cut for Sochi, including Valeri Nichushkin, Aleksander Barkov, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas and Olli Maatta. So they won’t get rest, but won’t be complaining, either. Here’s a look at the top candidates for rookie of the year in the NHL.

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

The first overall pick from this summer is in steamroller mode, riding a seven-game point streak that has seen his lead in the NHL rookie scoring race increase over Tampa’s Tyler Johnson. MacKinnon now has 21 goals and 43 points through 57 games.

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