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?

Rory Boylen
crosby-184718664

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
Nathan-MacKinnon-COL3

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
Nathan-MacKinnon-COL2

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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Vezina Trophy Watch: Bishop shaken up, but still on top

Ryan Kennedy
Ben-Bishop-TB

The Vezina race has been thrown into flux, due to the health of two top contenders. Minnesota’s Josh Harding, who is playing despite multiple sclerosis, hasn’t played since the calendar flipped over to 2014, while Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop took a skate to the back of the head Thursday night. How does this all change the race? Here’s a look.

1. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

Though Bishop had to leave the game against Ottawa, it sounds like he’s going to be OK. He has been incredible for the Lightning, posting a 26-7-4 record and a blistering .932 save percentage. The Bolts wouldn’t be where they are right now without him.

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Calder Trophy Watch: Colorado’s MacKinnon stays on top

Ryan Kennedy
Nathan-MacKinnon-COL2

There’s a strong race shaping up for the NHL’s rookie of the year and though Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon remains on top, there’s a wolfpack on his heels. Injuries both minor (Aleksander Barkov) and major (Tomas Hertl) throw a bit of a wrench into the proceedings, but there can only be one Calder winner in the end. Here’s a look at the current candidates.

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

That speed that MacKinnon used so effectively in junior? Still very much effective. The youngster has back-to-back two point games right now and leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (33) through 49 games. His faceoff work is improving, too.

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Norris Trophy Watch: Shea Weber brings more than points

Rory Boylen
Shea Weber

The Norris Trophy needs and has to be about more than just point totals. Sure, P.K. Subban is a dynamic offensive player, but did you know he gets more of his starts at even strength in the defensive zone than the offensive zone? When giving out an award for the best defenseman in the NHL, it’s important to pick someone with an all-round game. It’s imperative to pick someone who both scores and helps his team out of sticky situations.

Where Subban falls short is on the penalty kill, when he rarely contributes to the Canadiens. He makes up for that in a lot of ways elsewhere, but that’s a gap you can’t ignore with all the other worthy Norris candidates hanging around.

With the help of advanced stats to make sense of the intangibles, we break down the top 10 Norris candidates as they appear (in my mind) today. The most important point: look beyond the points.

1. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Weber is the second-highest point-getter on the low-scoring Predators and leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals. Nine of those have come on the man advantage, but 12 other NHL defensemen receive a higher percentage of their team’s PP minutes than Weber – and five of them appear in this ranking. Weber starts a high 34 percent of his even strength shifts in the D-zone (most on this list) and faces some of the stiffest competition each time he takes to the ice. He’s a big scorer, reliable defender and massive minute-muncher. Weber is an example of where the plus-minus stat skews real value. Read more