NHL Awards 2012: Predictions for Show's Biggest Honors
The NHL Awards Show will take place tonight in Las Vegas. Hockey's best players will compete for the sport's top individual honors, including the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the star who was most valuable to his team during the regular season.
Let's take a look at the three biggest awards that will be handed out tonight and make a prediction for which player will walk away with the hardware. With the draft also happening this week, it's an important stretch for the NHL.
Hart Trophy: Evgeni Malkin
With Sidney Crosby battling concussion issues, the Pittsburgh Penguins needed Malkin to carry the offensive load and the 25-year-old Russian sensation did exactly that. He scored 50 goals and chipped in 59 assists while also posting a career-high plus-18 rating.
His performance allowed the Penguins to finish with the most goals in the NHL and the second-most points in the Eastern Conference, something that wouldn't have seemed possible without Crosby playing a full season.
Malkin was nominated for the award twice before in 2008 and 2009, but came up short. I think that will change this year as he'll beat out Henrik Lundqvist and Steven Stamkos to add another big piece to his already impressive trophy case.
Who will win the Vezina Trophy?
Vezina Trophy: Henrik Lundqvist
Just when it seemed like Lundqvist couldn't get any better, he took his game to an even higher level this season. He had career best numbers in goals against average (1.97), save percentage (.930) and wins (39) to lead the New York Rangers.
The Rangers needed every bit of that tremendous play to earn the top spot in the Eastern Conference, because the team's offense was only average. It was Lundqvist that transformed them from a good team to an elite team.
Since he was nominated for the Hart Trophy, it's a pretty good indication that he has an advantage in terms of the voting. Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick both had strong campaigns of their own, but Lundqvist deserves his first Vezina after three unsuccessful nominations.
Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson
The Ottawa Senators just rewarded Karlsson for his fantastic season with a seven-year contract extension, and now he'll look to add the Norris Trophy. He led all defensemen in scoring with 78 points, which actually ranked 10th in the entire league.
In today's game, where blocking shots is the name of the game, it has become extremely difficult for blueliners to post big point totals. That makes Karlsson's performance even more impressive, and he's only 22 years old.
This would probably be the biggest lock of the night. Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber simply can't match the Ottawa rising star's stats, showing how big of a gap he put between himself and his nearest competition. I have a feeling Karlsson is going to win this award quite a bit during his career.
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