B/R Experts' NHL Awards for the 1st Half of the 2014-15 Season
We are at the unofficial halfway point of the 2014-15 NHL season, so it's time to pass out some hardware to the league's top players.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been carrying the injury-besieged Penguins this season, but are they worthy of Hart Trophy consideration? Or is this perhaps the season a goaltender carrying his team—Pekka Rinne—takes home MVP honors?
Who is the top rookie? Is it forward Filip Forsberg? Maybe defenseman Aaron Ekblad? Or could it be goaltender Michael Hutchinson?
There are close races in almost all the trophy battles, which is why only our panel of experts could decide such important things. That's why Jonathan Willis, Steve Macfarlane, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and myself voted for our award winners.
Our experts voted for B/R's award winners. Once a vote is cast for a player, it's assigned a value—three points for the top player in the rankings, two points for the second spot and one for third. The totals are then added up to create the results.
Vezina Trophy: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Why he wins: This was essentially a two-horse race between Pekka Rinne and Carey Price, but everyone on our panel gave Rinne their first-place vote. Among goaltenders with at least 30 starts, Rinne is first in goals-against average (1.96), save percentage (.931) and even-strength save percentage (.939)
Rinne recently suffered a knee injury that will keep him sidelined up to five weeks and may hurt his long-term candidacy if backup Carter Hutton shines in his place. As of now, Rinne has been statistically dominant and rewarded with the midway Vezina Trophy.
Final voting: Pekka Rinne (18), Carey Price (10), Braden Holtby (5), Marc-Andre Fleury (2), Craig Anderson (1)
Jack Adams Award: Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators
Why he wins: Peter Laviolette took over a Predators team that missed the postseason in 2013-14 and has them fighting for first place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. The voting here reflects the work of general manager David Poile and his offseason moves as much as it does Laviolette's efforts to improve the squad.
A healthy Pekka Rinne and roster improvements help, but Laviolette has gotten the job done so far in Nashville.
Final voting: Peter Laviolette (16), Paul Maurice (8), Barry Trotz (5), Jon Cooper (3), Jack Capuano (2), Bob Hartley (1), Joel Quenneville (1)
Norris Trophy: Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Why he wins: Not only is Mark Giordano a runaway Norris winner, but he's worthy of strong consideration for the Hart Trophy (keep clicking!). The Flames are a tire fire at five-on-five, ranking 28th in shot-attempt differential, but Giordano has the ability to tilt the ice while playing 25 minutes per game.
Giordano is also having a career year on offense. He leads the league in scoring among defensemen with 40 points in 47 games, perhaps another reason he's receiving so much praise for his play this season. He had a personal best 47 points last season, a number he should shatter in 2014-15.
Final voting: Mark Giordano (16), Drew Doughty (8), Shea Weber (7), P.K. Subban (2), John Carlson (2), Dustin Byfuglien (1)
Calder Trophy: Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers
Why he wins: Remember the rumors at the draft that the Flyers were trying to trade for the Panthers' top pick by dangling Vinny Lecavalier, according to the Sun Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov? Those were good times. Since then, 2014 No. 1 overall selection Aaron Ekblad has blossomed and is one of the bigger reasons why Florida is contending for a playoff spot.
The 18-year-old is fourth in rookie scoring with six goals and 25 points, but he leads all rookie blueliners in points. Only the Devils' Damon Severson (23:01) is averaging more ice time per game than Ekblad (22:03).
Final voting: Aaron Ekblad (17), Filip Forsberg (12), Johnny Gaudreau (4), Michael Hutchinson (3)
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins
Why he wins: Patrice Bergeron may go down as the most unappreciated forward in NHL history. He will never be a 40-goal, 100-point player, so when his career comes to an end, he won't have the usual Hall of Fame numbers. Yet he is asked to face the opposition's top forwards on almost every shift and is still a two-way force.
This season, Bergeron has 11 goals and 32 points in 47 games, but his Fenwick rests at 58.0 percent despite the vicious competition he faces every night. He kills penalties and wins a whopping 59.0 percent of his faceoffs, the second-best marks in the league.
Final voting: Patrice Bergeron (14), Jonathan Toews (7), Joe Thornton (5), Tyler Johnson (3), Sean Couturier (3), Ondrej Palat (2), Ryan O'Reilly (1), Frans Nielsen (1), Colin Wilson (1)
Hart Trophy: Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators
Why he wins: A goaltender hasn't won the NHL's MVP award since Jose Theodore in 2002, but that can change this season with the way Pekka Rinne has been playing for the Nashville Predators. He leads the league in just about every important goaltending category and benefits, at least right now, from the fact there isn't a forward running away from the field.
Just like in baseball, some believe goaltenders have their own award the way pitchers have their own award, the Cy Young. But if the Predators falter with Rinne out until perhaps February and he is just as dynamic when he returns from his knee injury, the award could be his.
Final voting: Pekka Rinne (18), Mark Giordano (5), Jakub Voracek (4), Ryan Getzlaf (3), Evgeni Malkin (2), John Tavares (2), Tyler Seguin (2)