"It doesn't matter who scored. The season's over."
- Boston's Shawn Thornton after Boston's season ended on a Game 7 overtime goal by Carolina's Scott Walker.
"It doesn't matter who scored. The season's over."
- Boston's Shawn Thornton after Boston's season ended on a Game 7 overtime goal by Carolina's Scott Walker.
Matthew Tkachuk. Image by: Getty Images
The Calder Trophy race will likely come down to Patrik Laine vs. Auston Matthews, which means in this Year of the Rookie, a lot of really good freshmen will not even be finalists.
There will be one winner and three finalists for the Calder Trophy this season and based on how impressive the rookie crop has been, it all seems inadequate. But hey, these kids are elite athletes and they don’t want your participation ribbons anyway. But for the sake of putting into perspective just how good this year’s Calder race is, I’d like to present you with the top five players who will not win rookie of the year this season.
In order to set this field, let’s first deal with the actual contenders: Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews are your favorites. Zach Werenski, Matt Murray and Mitch Marner are your dark horses, yet all have very nice cases to be made. When us writers fill out our awards ballots, we get five slots to fill out and I would presume this cohort would be on the majority of them (so as you will note, two of these players will be “snubbed” from the announced list of three finalists, even though they probably got a ton of lower-ranking votes).
But who will be the true snubs? My top five:
Matthew Tkachuk, Flames: He’s the heavy on Calgary’s most effective possession line and one of the Flames’ top scorers. Tkachuk’s chemistry with Mikael Backlund and Mikael Frolik has been a great boon for the team and the rookie’s combination of skill, aggression and ability to agitate is unparalleled among his rookie peers. Most other years, he’d be a finalist for sure. Ranks fifth in rookie scoring right now.
Ivan Provorov, Flyers: Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev is the only rookie to average more ice than Provorov and has slightly better stats, but I’m not a psycho: no voter outside of the 416 area code is going to put four Leafs on a ballot. Provorov plays against top lines and averages nearly a minute more of penalty-kill time than Zaitsev, so it’s not exactly tokenism to put him ahead of his Russian countryman. Offensively, he’s only slightly behind Shayne Gostisbehere among Flyers blueliners and offense is Ghost Bear’s thing.
William Nylander, Maple Leafs: As I just mentioned, you can only have so many Leafs on the ballot, but Nylander has compelling arguments for inclusion. He is now Toronto’s best possession forward and has more points than all rookies outside the Big Three forwards Laine, Matthews and Marner. Nylander leads the NHL in power play points among freshmen (which you can take as a positive or a negative – I call it the Dave Andreychuk Gauntlet) and is now playing alongside Matthews, which could increase his numbers. One weakness? He has been shuttled around the lineup by coach Mike Babcock – which is normal for a rookie, but doesn’t help his Calder efforts.
Brandon Carlo, Bruins: As the Bruins ponder life without Zdeno Chara, another tall drink of water with great reach and shutdown ability comes to town. Carlo is playing with ‘Z’ and more than holding his own, playing against top lines and logging lots of minutes. Only Zaitsev and Provorov skate more among rookies. Carlo is also chipping in offensively, with all of his 14 points coming 5-on-5 except for one shorthanded, and he ranks second on the Bruins in penalty-kill time. Boston has the best PK unit in the NHL, to top it off.
Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes: A solid possession player and one of the top scorers on a bad team, Aho is definitely off the radar in terms of Calder buzz, but again; in a regular year he’d at least be in the conversation. Already has his first NHL hat trick and is playing on Carolina’s top line, while logging some penalty-kill time on the league’s second-best unit.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
The Stastnys, Peter and Anton, combined for 16 points on this date in 1981. No sibling duo has matched the mark, but the past 30 years has seen some great offensive nights from brothers.
Darryl Sittler’s 10-point night is the pinnacle of single-game statistics. Others have come close in the years since Sittler managed the feat, but it takes a special performance for any player to even flirt with matching or potentially surpassing Sittler’s mark.
The thing is, though, that it doesn’t really seem as though it’s an impossible feat to match or surpass. Others have, at the very least, come close to matching Sittler. Twice during his career, Mario Lemieux scored at least eight points in a single outing, and Bernie Nicholls registered eight points in a game back during that same 1988 campaign where Lemieux hit the mark twice. The closest in recent memory, as most will recall, was Sam Gagner’s magical eight-point night, but even that left him two points shy with less than four minutes left to play.
But while it’s hard to fathom Sittler’s record falling, it’s still within the realm of possibility. Not sure the same can be said for the feat the Stastny brothers, Peter and Anton, pulled off exactly 37 years ago today. On Feb. 22, 1981, the Stastnys came out flying against the Capitals and, in an 11-7 thrashing of Washington, the brothers racked up a ridiculous 16 points. The pair of eight-point nights gives the Stastny’s the distinction of having the highest scoring game by a pair of brothers on one team in a single game, and it’s unlikely that record ever falls. It’s hard enough for one player to score eight points in a single game, let alone two.
There have been some incredible nights by sibling duos over the past 30 years, however. Dating back to 1987-88, here are the five best single-game performances by a pair of brothers:
Daniel and Henrik Sedin — Nine points, Nov. 21, 2015
The Blackhawks had front row seats to Gagner’s incredible performance, and they were also witnesses to the biggest night by a pair of siblings in the past 30 years. During the November contest between the Blackhawks and Canucks early in 2015-16, the Sedins scored early and often. The first point came midway through the first period, a power play tally that saw both Sedins pick up a point, followed by another point for Henrik before the first period was through.
The Sedins made all the difference in the final 40 minutes in what was a tie game heading into the second frame. Daniel registered his first goal of the game midway through the second, then added two more in a span of two minutes late in the third period. Henrik had the primary assist on all three of Daniel’s goals, and the Canucks skated away with a 6-3 victory thanks to the remarkable night from the Sedins.
Peter and Anton Stastny — Eight points, Feb. 21, 1988
First all-time and second on this list, the Stastny’s were, in a sense, the early version of the Sedins. They made magic happen together. The only thing they were missing was the seemingly psychic twin abilities the Sedins have, but the Stastnys more than made up for it with their ability to fill the net and stuff the score sheet. Fitting that one of the biggest nights of their careers came almost seven years to the day after their famous 16-point night, too.
The Nordiques didn’t exactly buzzsaw their opponents like they had on the Stastny’s 16-point night, however. Rather, they only managed to eke out a 6-5 victory on the strength of a hat trick by Peter and an awesome four-assist night from Anton. All that was missing was a goal from Anton for the Stastnys stat line to match the Sedins exactly.
Jamie and Jordie Benn — Five points, Jan. 23, 2014; Dec. 13, 2016
When your brother is one of the top scorers in the league over the past few years, you’re bound to benefit from time to time. That’s exactly the case with Jordie Benn, but it wouldn’t be fair to say that he’s ridden Jamie’s coattails onto this list.
The first time the brothers combined for a five-point night was back when Jamie was just starting his rise to becoming a perennial contender for the Art Ross Trophy, and his four-point night was one of his best of the campaign in a 7-1 defeat of the Maple Leafs. Jordie’s assist, which came while playing shorthanded with his brother, pushed them up to five total points. They then matched the feat earlier this season when Jamie chipped in a goal and three points to add to Jordie’s two helpers in a 6-2 defeat of the Ducks.
However, there is a six-point night among the brothers. Trouble is there’s no split. Jamie scored six points — a goal and five assists — in a 7-3 victory by the Stars over the Flames. Jordie didn’t hit the score sheet that night.
Scott and Rob Niedermayer — Five points, March 31, 2009
The Niedermayers played more than 2,400 combined games in the NHL, and nearly 25 percent of those came with the brothers suiting up together for the Ducks. The time together started during the 2005-06 season in the post-lockout NHL, and it continued on through to the 2008-09 campaign. And it was right around the time their tenure as teammates was coming to a close — less than a few months, to be exact — that they had their biggest night together.
On the final day of March, five games before the season was set to close, the Ducks squared off against the Oilers and the Niedermayers struck gold, especially in the second frame. Scott scored on a power play 33 seconds into the second, assisted on a Chris Pronger goal less than five minutes later and added a second helper on Rob’s goal with 1:25 left in the period. Rob capped the scoring with an empty-netter with 36 seconds left.
Eric and Jordan Staal — Four points, five times
The Staals were the center of the offense for the Hurricanes for a four-season stretch that spanned nearly 270 games, and the duo produced like a solid one-two punch for much of their time with the team. There are four different occasions in which four total points came off the sticks of the Staals. Incredibly, however, three of those big nights came in one spurt.
Eric and Jordan combined for three four-point games across a span of five weeks starting in November 2013. In a Nov. 24 game, Eric scored once and had three points with Jordan adding an assist on the first Hurricanes goal of the game to lead Carolina to victory, they again combined for four points in a win over the Coyotes less than three weeks later and had the four-point night a third time in an overtime win over the Canadiens on Dec. 31, 2013. As it turns out, another sibling duo was doing the same that night.
Eric and Jordan again pitched in a combined four-point night to close out March 2015. Eric scored early on an assist from Jordan then started piling up helpers of his own. First came an assist on an Alexander Semin goal, following by the primary helper on the final nail in the coffin, an Andrej Nestrasil power play tally late in the third.
Brayden and Luke Schenn — Four points, Dec. 31, 2013
The Schenn household sure had an exciting close to 2013. Brayden and Luke were in their second season playing together in Philadelphia. Brayden was just starting to become a fixture of the offense as the brothers combined to contributed 24 goals and 53 points during the 2013-14 season, but nothing seemed to click quite like it did on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
Early in the contest, Brayden picked up his first of two assists in the game and he added a goal in the dying minutes of the second period, while Luke had his lone contribution of the outing when the brothers both got in on a Scott Hartnell insurance marker midway through the third period. It was the most productive the Schenns ever were in a given game for the Flyers.
The brothers were split up in 2015-16 when the Flyers shipped Luke to the Kings, coincidentally the same team from which they received Brayden.
(All statistical information via Hockey-Reference.com)
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Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford. Image by: Getty Images
With a 7-3 record in their past 10 games, the Hawks are beginning to look a lot like the dynasty that has won three Stanley Cups since 2010.
During the pre-game festivities at the United Center, the Blackhawks play a campy fight song called Here Come the Hawks! And as we enter the stretch drive of the season, that fight song could very well be a recurring theme.
Because, well, here come the Hawks. With a 7-3 record in their past 10 games and a seven-game winning streak on the road, the Hawks are beginning to look a lot like the dynasty that has won three Stanley Cups since 2010. Will the Blackhawks make any tweaks before the trade deadline? Well, the way some of their young players have been performing lately, that might not be necessary. With their current hot streak, particularly on the road, the Blackhawks find themselves atop THN.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Chicago Blackhawks (3)
2. Florida Panthers (12)
3. New York Rangers (2)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)
5. Washington Capitals (1)
6. Boston Bruins (7)
7. Minnesota Wild (4)
8. New York Islanders (16)
9. San Jose Sharks (8)
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
Captain Serious Jonathan Toews is seriously heating up with 8-12-20 totals and five multi-point games in his past 12…The Panthers may have saved their season by sweeping a five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history...The Rangers’ power play has gone dry. It’s 1-for-18 in the past seven games and 3-for-39 in the past 14…Don’t look now, but the Penguins are only three back of Washington for first overall in the NHL. (The Caps have a game in hand). By the way, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had the line of the year describing the Penguins 3-1 win over Carolina Tuesday night: “The first two periods of the Penguins’ 3-1 victory against Carolina Tuesday night at PNC Arena were, as hockey games go, a work of art,” Molinari wrote. “The kind a sleep-deprived first-grader might produce if working with a limited selection of broken crayons.”…The Capitals have used a league-low 26 players – goaltenders included – so far this season…Claude Who? The Bruins go into Wednesday's game in Anaheim 4-0-0 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy…Back in the lineup after missing four games with a knee injury, Matt Dumba was minus-4 in a 5-3 loss to Chicago Tuesday night…The Islanders are just 8-13-4 on the road, but started a brutal nine-game road trip with a 3-1 win over Detroit Tuesday night…The Sharks have lost just one regulation game in their past 10, but have dropped four in overtime and one in a shootout…After suffering a shoulder injury last week, rookie Leafs Mitch Marner is on injured reserve.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (21)
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (11)
13. Ottawa Senators (20)
14. St. Louis Blues (6)
15. Montreal Canadiens (19)
16. Edmonton Oilers (10)
17. Anaheim Ducks (9)
18. Los Angeles Kings (18)
19. Calgary Flames (24)
20. Philadelphia Flyers (17)
Ben Bishop is not making things easy for the Lightning. They have a major decision to make before the trade deadline. Do they trade him to avoid losing him for nothing in the expansion draft, or do they ride his hot hand and hope they can make the playoffs?...Brandon Dubinsky is heating up for the Blue Jackets. He has 4-6-10 totals in his past nine games, including the overtime winner against his arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins…Senators GM Pierre Dorion told TSN of Curtis Lazar, “We’re just not going to give him away.” So now they’re openly talking about trading him. Is it just me or do the Senators seem intent on ruining this kid?...With Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund pending UFAs, Blues GM Doug Armstrong will be both a buyer and a seller at this year’s trade deadline…Paul Byron is the Canadiens’ secret weapon. He has both game-winners in the Habs’ two shootout wins this season…Brian Boyle and Martin Hanzal are the two players most linked to the Oilers at the trade deadline… In an effort to try to spread out the offense, the Ducks broke up the Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg line, but that didn’t last long. Coach Randy Carlyle put them back together in a 1-0 win over Los Angeles Sunday…The Kings’ 2-1 win over Colorado Tuesday night was Darryl Sutter’s 215th victory as coach, tying him with Andy Murray for No. 1 on the franchise’s all-time wins list. It was also his 1,262nd game, tying him with Jacques Lemaire for 13th on the all-time NHL list…Johnny Gaudreau had four assists in the Flames 6-5 overtime win over the Predators Tuesday night, but has just one goal in his past 20 games…The Flyers face Eastern Conference teams in 20 of their final 23 games.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Winnipeg Jets (25)
22. Buffalo Sabres (22)
23. Nashville Predators (14)
24. Dallas Stars (28)
25. Arizona Coyotes (23)
26. New Jersey Devils (15)
27. Detroit Red Wings (29)
28. Vancouver Canucks (26)
29. Colorado Avalanche (30)
30. Carolina Hurricanes (27)
Patrik Laine is just the third active player – Jeff Skinner and Sidney Crosby are the two others – to score 30 goals as an 18-year-old…Evander Kane has 14 even-strength goals since Dec. 3, which is the most in the NHL in that time span…Talk about efficient. Filip Forsberg scored three goals on three shots in just 16:16 of ice time in Nashville’s 6-5 overtime loss to Calgary Tuesday night…Jamie Benn has 10-7-17 totals in his past 15 games, but the Stars are only 5-8-2 in that span…The Coyotes kicked off their annual Fire Sale by dealing pending UFA Michael Stone to Calgary last week…Just a thought here: With two years at a $5 million cap hit, is there any way 34-year-old Michael Cammalleri gets some attention at the trade deadline? Probably not…It’s pretty clear Henrik Zetterberg is doing everything he can to prevent the Red Wings from missing the playoffs on his watch. He has 5-10-15 totals in his past 13 games…Bo Horvat has 40 points this season, which matches his career high…Avs defenseman Nikita Zadorov is out for the year after breaking his ankle in practice…The Hurricanes have scored just four goals in the past five games, only two at even strength.
Rookies William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Nikita Zaitsev.
The Maple Leafs suddenly have as much as $15 million to work with at the trade deadline which they could use to make a big deal; Avalanche stars could stay put.
The rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs are among this season's most-improved clubs. After finishing at the bottom of the standings last season, the Leafs are jockeying for a post-season berth in the Eastern Conference.
Despite this improvement, the Leafs still have some roster weaknesses to address. Their most-pressing need is a skilled puck-moving defenseman. With the playoffs in sight, perhaps the Leafs could address that need by the trade deadline.
That possibility increased when Sportsnet's Chris Johnston last week reported the Leafs quietly placed injured players Nathan Horton, Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas on long-term injured reserve. The moves give the Leafs flexibility in the form of an additional $15 million in salary-cap space.
With that kind of space, the Leafs have room to pursue a big-name player at the trade deadline. They've been linked in recent weeks to St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Despite the Blues' recent resurgence, TSN's Darren Dreger claims the 28-year-old Shattenkirk remains in play.
The asking price for Shattenkirk is thought to be at least a first-round pick and a top prospect. While the Leafs have the depth to meet that return, they could be unwilling to do so unless Shattenkirk, who's eligible in July for unrestricted free agency, is willing to sign a long-term extension.
If Shattenkirk proves too costly for the Leafs, more affordable options include Buffalo Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and New Jersey Devils rearguard Kyle Quincey. If they want additional depth at forward, Johnston suggests Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Brian Boyle, Dallas Stars right winger Patrick Sharp or Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal.
DUCHENE, LANDESKOG COULD STAY PUT IN COLORADO AFTER DEADLINE
The Colorado Avalanche reportedly continue to entertain offers for Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. While the notion of one or both moving before the March 1 trade deadline provides a much-needed spark to the trade-rumor mill, they could still be with the Avalanche when the deadline passes.
It's not as though there isn't any interest in the pair. For several weeks, the 26-year-old Duchene was linked to the Montreal Canadiens. Reports out of Boston earlier this month suggested the Bruins could make a push for the 24-year-old Landeskog. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports there's talk the Senators kicked tires on both players.
As always, the issue is the asking price. It's believed the Avs seek a good young defenseman, a first-round pick and a top prospect for either guy.
In a recent mailbag segment, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty said the Bruins shouldn't give up a promising young blueliner such as Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy for Landeskog. TSN's Bob McKenzie reports Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has no intention of sacrificing his future. His colleague Pierre LeBrun believes the Sens interest in Duchene is pretty much dead unless the asking price is reduced.
LeBrun suggests the Carolina Hurricanes possess considerable depth in young blueliners and need a scoring center. However, he's not convinced Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will pony up for Duchene. LeBrun suggests Francis try to tempt the Toronto Maple Leafs into parting with William Nylander.
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic apparently isn't under pressure to move Duchene or Landeskog before the deadline. It's expected he'll wait for the off-season, when general managers usually have more salary-cap room and a willingness to deal.
FLAMES COULD LOOK AT GOALIES AGAIN
Prior to the 2016 NHL draft, the Calgary Flames created a stir when it was reported they contacted the Pittsburgh Penguins about goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The discussion apparently ended when the Pens asked for the Flames first-round pick (sixth overall). Calgary used that pick to select left winger Matthew Tkachuk.
The Flames eventually acquired Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues, but he's failed to play up to expectations as a starting goaltender. With Chad Johnson also struggling of late, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports the Flames could revisit their interest in the 32-year-old Fleury, who's lost his starter's job to rookie Matt Murray.
Earlier this month, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he's open to dealing Fleury but prefers retaining him as insurance for the playoffs. Unless Fleury, who carries a modified no-trade clause, asks to be dealt, he could finish the season in Pittsburgh.
The Flames also nearly had a deal in place last June to acquire Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning. If they can't pry Fleury out of Pittsburgh, maybe they can once again look into the 30-year-old Bishop's trade status.
Bishop's an unrestricted free agent this summer and isn't expected to be re-signed. If the Lightning put Bishop on the block, they could seek a young defenseman in return. It's doubtful, however, the Flames meet that price unless they get assurances that Bishop will re-sign with them.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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