Top 5 Reasons to Watch the 2012 NHL Awards
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Las Vegas hosts the 2012 NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 20th at 7:00 pm ET. The awards will be hosted by well, no one, but that doesn't mean it won't be exciting.
For the hockey fan, the NHL Awards Show has become an annual fixture on the television set. The awards can start debate and provide closure to an entertaining 2011-12 NHL season capped off by a Stanley Cup run worthy of multiple awards, regardless of the sport.
There are a ton of story lines for this year's NHL Award show, which promises to be entertaining as always, but here are my top five awards to watch Wednesday Night.
5. The Calder Memorial Trophy
Gabriel Landeskog netted the most complete season (statistically) of all rookies in 2012.
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Let's face it, the NHL is a brutal league and rarely do teams get as much out of their rookies than these three finalists:
Gabriel Landeskog (COL)
Adam Henrique (NJD)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM)
By the numbers:
Landeskog: 22 Goals, 30 Assists, 52 Points, 270 Shots and a 20 +/- rating. Team record: 41-35-6 (seven points out of eighth place in the Western Conference).
Landeskog had arguable the most complete season of any of the 2012 rookies. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the young Swede had just 12 points in the final month of the season, when the Avs needed to play a playoff push. Regardless, his stats speak for themselves.
Henrique: 16 G, 35 A, 51 Pts, 130 SOG, 8 +/-. Team Record: 48-28-6 (sixth place in the Eastern Conference, Eastern Conference Champions).
Henrique scored some absolutely massive goals for the Devils in their improbable run through the postseason. Unfortunately, that doesn't help in the voting. As a center, Henrique connected on over 12 percent of his shots. That stat is absurd. His weakness could be his physicality (only seven penalty minutes the whole season) but offensively, Henrique is top-notch.
Nugent-Hopkins: 18 G, 34 A, 52 Pts, 134 SOG, -2 +/-. Team Record: 32-40-10 (14th out of 15 in the Western Conference).
The top pick in last year's draft didn't disappoint the Oiler faithful in his career opening campaign. Nugent-Hopkins scored on 13.5 percent of his shots. He is looking to establish himself as one of the league's top scorers and has certainly started his career off on the right foot. Nugent-Hopkins will be hurt by his plus/minus rating but, who isn't when they play for Edmonton? His stats show he's going to be one of the top scorers in the game.
Fortunately for Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog, this isn't a "Most Valuable Rookie" campaign because Henrique would run away with this award. Considering all the stats and the overall body of work, my winner is Gabriel Landeskog. The Avs did well with this draft pick; he'll shoulder an even larger load in his sophomore season.
4. The Jack Adams Award
Paul Maclean lead the Sens back to the playoffs, a must if you are going to coach hockey in Canada.
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The Jack Adams Award for the coach who contributed most to his team's success has three very deserving finalists this year.
Paul Maclean of the Ottawa Senators: He coaches Canada's favorite sport in Canada's capital city. Does anyone else want to talk about pressure? In 2011, the Sens finished 13th in the East with 74 points. Maclean brought the Sens to the eighth spot in the East this season and an 18-point improvement from a season ago. Well done, sir.
John Tortorella of the New York Rangers: Tortorella's Rangers went from eighth place last season to the Eastern Conference regular-season champions in 2012. The Rangers were also in contention for the President's Trophy (Best Record) for the majority of the season and looked head-and-shoulders above the competition in the East a number of times. His team's 109 points speak volumes, even if he never does during his interviews.
Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues: 87 points and 11th place in 2011 to 109 points and nearly a President's Trophy. Nice work, Ken. Hitchcock brought the team back to respectability in one of the top sports cities in the Midwest. He had to compete with those attention (and world Series) stealing Cardinals and the media-grabbing Rams. He put a quality product out in front of the Blues faithful on a night-in and night-out basis. The 22-point improvement is impressive.
And the winner is... Ken Hitchcock. The entire season critics wondered when the Blues would collapse. They didn't, until they ran into the LA Kings in the second round of the playoffs. Impressive body of work.
3. Erin Andrews and the Best of the Best
Erin Andrews, enough said.
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Do I really need to say anything more? If you can find anything better than beautiful women and the best plays from an entire season of hockey, you have a skill I don't.
2. The Hart Memorial Trophy
King Henrik Lundqvist at his finest.
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The Hart Memorial Trophy is given to the player most valuable to his team. I don't think the Hart needs any more introduction than that.
This year's finalists:
Henrik Lundqvist (NY Rangers)
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
Steven Stamkos (TBL)
By the numbers
Lundqvist: 39-18-5, 1.97 Goals-Against Average, .930 Save Percentage, Eastern Conference regular-season champions.
Malkin: 50 Goals, 59 Assists, 339 SOG, 18 +/- Rating.
Malkin played without Sydney Crosby for the majority of the season and still helped his team snag 108 points.The Penguins recorded the fourth seed in the East, even though they had the second-most points in the conference.
Stamkos: 60 G, 37 A, 303 Shots, 7 +/-.
Stamkos did everything he could to carry his injury-depleted Lightning to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the patchwork defense didn't allow it. Regardless, Stamkos was the most explosive player on ice this year as he netted 60 goals en route to the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.
And the winner is, Henrik Lundqvist. It pains me to say that a Lightning player won't be the MVP of the league, but value comes with team success. The Bolts didn't make the playoffs. Lundqvist dominated the entire season, earning him the nickname of "King Henrik." When you are one of the main reasons your team makes the playoffs, you have a very high value. When your team is the top team in the conference and you are THE main reason, you have a very high value. Thus, Lundqvist=value. Lundqvist=Hart Trophy.
1. The Vezina Trophy
Johnathan Quick exemplified goaltending in 2012. His Conn Smythe won't be the only trophy he snags.
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The Vezina Trophy is voted on by the general managers of the league. The award goes to the goaltender judged to be the best at his position.
As a career forward, I never really liked goaltenders. I always felt like they were robbing me of something, but I digress. This is the first year I can remember that I have been more intrigued by watching goaltenders change games than scorers.
The exception, of course, is any time I watched the Lightning play. Vincent Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, that's my kind of team. The Bolts may have even been better off going empty net so I wouldn't have to watch the goaltending.
However, any other time I watched the game of hockey, it was all about goaltending. The list is long: Halak, Quick, Lundqvist, Thomas, Brodeur, Luongo/Schneider, Smith, Rinne, should I continue?
Unfortunately only three can be named finalists. Those three:
Johnathan Quick (LA)
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
Pekka Rinne (NSH)
By the numbers:
Quick: 35-21-13, 1.95 GAA, .929 S%
Lundqvist: 39-18-5, 1.97 GAA, .930 S%
Rinne: 43-18-8, 2.39 GAA, .923 S%
There are arguments for all of them. Rinne had the best record and most appearances. Lundqvist had the highest save percentage. Quick had the best goals-against average. This one is fun because there really is no wrong decision. They all had tremendous seasons and have brought goaltending back to the forefront of successful teams in the NHL.
That being said, the winner is, Jonathan Quick. Ten shutouts (three in the final month), 10 wins in the final month of the regular season. Without him, the Kings wouldn't have been in the playoffs. We all know what happened when they got there. Quick was a huge part of it.