THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS: 42-year old Teemu Selanne scores his 42nd career playoff goal.
The NHL Playoffs are just around the corner (less than two weeks, to be exact) and now that the regular season is wrapping up, it’s time to start recognizing the players who have been outstanding throughout the last 48 games.
Yes, the criteria is a little skewed considering the season was cut in half and games were kept within their own conferences. But exceptional performances are still exceptional, regardless of the time frame and who the opponent is.
Here are some of the names mentioned for the awards, and my winning picks.
[Warning: This post may be slightly biased.]
Selke Trophy: Top Defensive Forward
- Patrice Bergeron
- Pavel Datsyuk
- Jonathan Toews
Winner - Jonathan Toews.
Why? Just watch him play a game. 52 takeaways thus far in the season, and always making subtle defensive plays to help secure the Chicago Blackhawks’ bid for the President’s Trophy.
Norris Trophy: Top Defenseman
- Kris Letang
- P.K. Subban
- Ryan Suter
Winner - Kris Letang
Why? During his time on ice, Letang has averaged one point per game. Before injuries plagued him, Letang led the league in points for a defenseman. But despite missing 12 games he still sits in second in the scoring race for defensemen.
Calder Trophy: Top Rookie
- Jonathan Huberdeau
- Brendan Gallagher
- Brandon Saad
Winner - Jonathan Huberdeau
Why? It’s hard to gain recognition when your team is languishing at the bottom of the league standings. But somehow Huberdeau has accomplished it, with 13 goals and 14 assists, and a vivacious attitude on the ice.
Vezina Trophy: Top Goaltender
- Tuuka Rask
- Craig Anderson
- Sergei Bobrovsky
Winner - Sergei Bobrovsky
Why? 17 wins and a .931 save percentage in 33 games played. Bobrovsky is basically the reason that the Columbus Blue Jackets even have a chance of making it past the regular season (a statement that seemed ludicrous 4 months ago).
Hart Trophy: Most Valuable Player
- Sidney Crosby
- John Tavares
- Alexander Ovechkin
Winner - Sidney Crosby
Why? This one shouldn’t even have to be explained, but I’ll do it anyways. Before suffering a broken jaw, Crosby was running away with the lead in the points race. 56 POINTS IN 36 GAMES. And even though he’s been off the ice since March 30, he’s still the league leader in points. Just having his presence on the ice changed the Pittsburgh Penguins’ game, and Crosby led his team to its second-longest winning streak in franchise history (15 games). Some are arguing that Alexander Ovechkin deserves the Hart over Crosby, for his recent hot streak and Crosby’s absence because of injury. But think about it: Are we really going to reward Ovechkin for sucking during the first half of the season, and punish Crosby for missing games due to an unforeseen injury?
I didn’t think so.
So, there are my picks. What are yours, and why?
The Florida Panthers may not have much to smile about of late. They’ve won only 3 games in the month of March, and with just 24 points, are currently the worst team in the league.
It’s a far cry from the underdog team that finished with 94 points last season, and made an appearance in the playoffs.
But as dark as the Panthers’ present is, there is invariably one silver lining that is outshining the team’s woes and lighting the way to a hopeful future. And that silver lining is rookie centerman Jonathan Huberdeau.
From early on in his career, the 19-year old from Saint-Jerome, Quebec, was undoubtedly destined for great things. In the 2010-2011 QMJHL season he tallied 105 points in 67 games played with the Saint John Sea Dogs. He was then selected 3rd overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, just after fellow Canadian Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st) and 2012 Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog (2nd).
This shortened NHL season is Huberdeau’s first in the big show, but he has wasted no time making a case for this year’s Calder honours. Leading all rookies in goals with 12, he is also sitting at 35th in the entire league—-now you can’t say that’s not impressive for a rookie!
The Panthers’ most prolific goal scorer, Huberdeau not only contributes offensively but also defensively.
From 4-point nights to game-winning goals, Huberdeau’s hot start is a highlight reel that has brought excitement to Florida’s game.
While it may not be enough to lift the Panthers to a playoff position this season, it is more than enough to convince Panthers that Huberdeau is the face of the franchise they desperately need, and that they have in their future an elite player with the potential to lead their team to the top.
He’s done it several times in his already-spectacular career, and the No look, backhand pass (that inevitably leads to a goal) is quickly becoming one of his signature moves.
I hate the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a passion. So you can imagine my happiness when they were defeated tonight by my Pittsburgh Penguins.
And of course, it doesn’t hurt that Sidney Crosby picked up 2 points with an assist and a sexy goal, to keep his spot atop the league in scoring.
Meanwhile, in his first game back from a concussion, Evgeni Malkin dangles through a couple of Bolts defensemen for another sexy goal.
To top it all off…James Neal scored his 14th of the season to bring him within 3 goals for the league lead. And Kris Letang, with his 2 assists tonight, now leads all defensemen in scoring.
I guess you could say it was an alright night :)
Tim Jackman on last night’s horrific 4-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes: “Our plan was to throw pucks at the net and we didn’t do it as often as we needed to.”
But he did throw punches at Paul Bissonnette and those punches came pretty often if you ask me…
As much as I wish this wasn’t even a discussion (sometimes I like to live in a fantasy world and pretend that my Calgary Flames aren’t sitting dead last in the Western Conference and second-last in the entire league), some facts just need to be faced.
The Flames may finally have their pick of the best of the best come the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and while all the players in the top 10 would be a fantastic choice, two in particular trump the rest.
Like Taylor [Hall] and Tyler [Seguin] before them, Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks and Nathan Mackinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads, are generating all the buzz.
But when faced with the decision of who would be a more beneficial part of the Flames roster, who would you pick?
Here’s a quick rundown of the two rising stars, to help inform your decision:
-Highly skilled offensive C
-Elite skater, shooter and passer
-Quick hands, can handle the puck in tight areas
Year To Date:
Games played - 39
Goals - 27
Assists - 40
Points - 67
-Can skate defensively and offensively
-Great utilization of size and power
-Good cornerstone defenseman
Year To Date:
Games played - 43
Goals - 9
Assists - 32
Points - 41
So, what does Calgary need more? A solid two-way defenseman or a potential #1 franchise center? A future Sidney Crosby or a player who could be reminiscent of Al MacInnis?
First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting in almost a month! I’ll just blame it on the excitement of having the NHL back after months of grievous anticipation.
Second of all, I hope you like the blog’s new look. I thought I’d go darker this time around, and I think this color scheme makes it look a little more mature…at least I hope it does!
Now finally, on to the hockey-related goodness of the night.
Scheduled only half an hour apart (don’t worry, I managed to watch both with equal concentration), my two teams played tonight, starting with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sought revenge on the New York Islanders after an embarrassing 4-1 loss on January 29 at home.
Right off the bat, the real deal James Neal took a feed from Sidney Crosby and fired a wrister past Evgeni Nabokov. The Pens went into the second period with a 1-0 lead, but it was what happened 3 minutes into the second frame that had Penguins fans on the edge of their seats.
On an Pittsburgh powerplay, the puck (shot by Evgeni Malkin and deflected off of Islanders defenseman Brian Strait’s stick) flew up and hit Sidney Crosby square in the face. The captain went down hard and had to be escorted back to the locker room, bleeding profusely.
Thankfully, Sid was okay and was able to return with more than half of the period remaining.
The third period began with a slap shot goal by Brandon Sutter, which increased the Pens’ lead to 3-0. Soon after, back-to-back goals by the Islanders’ Michael Grabner and Brad Boyes cut the deficit to within one.
Though the game had potential to get ugly (God forbid a repeat of the two teams’ previous meeting!) Marc-Andre Fleury was pretty great and denied any Islanders who tried to even up the score from thereon in. Seconds away from the final buzzer, Pascal Dupuis nabbed the empty-netter and the Penguins made it safely out of there with a 4-2 victory.
Meanwhile, over in Detroit, my struggling Calgary Flames—second only to the Washington Capitals for the title of worst in the league
(it’s a disgusting sentence, I know)—-faced off against Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and the rest of the intimidating Red Wings in search of their first regulation win of the season.
Who better than the good ol’ Flames captain to set the tone and score the first goal of the game? In fact, it was Jarome Iginla’s first of a season, and although it wasn’t his prettiest of goals, it sparked a nice bit of offense and confidence for Calgary.
10 minutes later, Curtis Glencross doubled the lead, and although the Detroit “mule” Johan Franzen brought the score to within one in the second, Flames’ defenceman Dennis Wideman elevated his team once again, with less than a minute left to play in the period.
For good measure, Mark Giordano fired a slap shot into the Red Wings’ net during an ensuing Flames powerplay (also his first of the season) 5 minutes into the third, bringing the score to 4-1.
Another scary moment unfolded tonight, this time involving backbone of the Calgary Flames. Miikka Kiprusoff left the game in the third with a lower-body injury and did not return. Leland Irving was put in net and was stellar, stopping every Detroit puck that came his way.
Kiprusoff left the locker room after the game sans crutches or leg brace (relatively good news) and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious…without Kipper, we might as well get nice and comfortable at the bottom of the league’s standings.
Despite the potential serious injuries to a couple of my favorite players, both my teams managed to put one in the W column. For the Penguins, it was sweet, sweet revenge. For the Flames, it was a nice jolt of momentum and a good, hard-earned win.
And for me…well, it was just a good night.