What’s missing from the NHL playoffs? More awards, of course

Jason Kay
Stanley Cup Finals - Philadelphia Flyers v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Six

The NHL is not shy when it comes to recognizing its own.

It has annual awards for the most offensive player (Art Ross) and least offensive (Lady Byng). It has four trophies dedicated to players whose main task is to keep opponents from scoring.

It celebrates its best newcomer, the guy who scores the most goals and the one best at leading. The most valuable player on the ice and off ice get hardware to take home. Coaches, GMs and builders in the United States are honored each year.

Heck, even Joes who do nothing more than write about or broadcast the sport are eligible for recognition.

All told, there are 18 individual trophies listed in the NHL Guide and Record Book. Curiously, however, only one of those baubles is dedicated to the playoffs.

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Why Tuukka Rask should win the Vezina Trophy

Tuukka Rask

Like the Calder and Hart Trophies, this year’s Vezina race had too many worthy finalists to fit in the top three. Tuukka Rask, Semyon Varlamov, Ben Bishop and Carey Price all put up numbers good enough to be seriously considered for the award – Price was left as the odd-man out.

Varlamov emerged as a real difference-maker under Patrick Roy and behind a Colorado team that advanced stats suggested didn’t possess the puck enough to hang with division rivals St. Louis and Chicago. Varlamov faced the most shots, made the most saves and, largely because of that performance, the Avs beat out both teams for the division title.

But this Vezina should not be for Varlamov. Read more

Why Martin St-Louis doesn’t deserve the Lady Byng

Martin St-Louis comprised one half of 2014's best trade. (Getty Images)

For Ryan O’Reilly to be passed over for the Lady Byng Trophy this season would require members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to blunder almost as badly as they did last year when they made Alexander Ovechkin an first-team all-star at both left and right wing.

O’Reilly plays big minutes – 24th in the league in 5-on-5 ice time per game – against the opponents’ best lines and led the league in takeaways, all the while only getting two penalty minutes this season. In his 72nd game, he broke his stick on a faceoff against Logan Couture and kicked the puck back to his defenseman before being called for playing with a broken stick. O’Reilly led his team in goals, logged more ice time than any other forward on the team and manages to get the puck away from his opponents without going on the wrong side of the rulebook. Read more

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
Tuukka-Rask-3

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