With the culmination of this year’s NHL season coming tomorrow night at the Awards show in Las Vegas, many are interested to find out who will go home with the hardware. Most of the awards could be very close races, and as always there are players who should have been on those lists but aren’t. I know I’m excited for the results, so let’s get started!
1. Hart Memorial Trophy—Regular Season MVP
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Right off the bat let me say that either Crosby or Sedin could win this coveted award for leading their respective teams to great finishes. Crosby led the charge while defending their Cup championship from last year, and had a great season finishing with 51 goals. Sedin came out of nowhere to realize his potential as a huge scoring threat, leading the Canucks to a divisional championship and third place finish.
As much as I love watching Ovechkin play, and he is one of the most exciting players in the league, his spot should have Ryan Miller’s (goalie of the Buffalo Sabres) name on it. Ovechkin was aided by defenseman Mike Green and scoring phenoms Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin to help the Washington Capitals win the President’s Trophy for best record. He scored a ton of goals but wasn’t by any means a MVP this year.
Miller was probably the one reason Buffalo had a hope of going anywhere in the post-season this year and he was their best player by far. But Miller didn’t make it so I have to add Ovechkin into my equation.
Pick: Henrik Sedin—He won the Art Ross trophy for most points in the regular season with 112, finished with a plus 36 rating and was the fulcrum of Vancouver’s great season. Crosby is solid, but the Penguins have a much better overall lineup than the Canucks. I only hope that we are seeing the new Sedin of the future and not some wonder-year that will never happen again.
2. Vezina Trophy—Best Goalie
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
All three finalists had stellar seasons, Brodeur doing what he does best, Bryzgalov leading the Coyotes to a very surprising fourth place finish in the West, and Miller being the core of Buffalo’s great play.
By the time that he retires, Brodeur will probably be considered the greatest goalie of all time, but he was not the best in the NHL this year. He had the most wins out of the three finalists and the most shutouts, but I don’t think he was the Goalie MVP of the year.
Pick: Ryan Miller—The Sabres’ goalie is undoubtedly the best goalie in the NHL right now, and arguably the best in the world.
He narrowly missed taking Team USA to a gold medal finish in Vancouver, and if not for injuries to the Sabres’ top guys, he could’ve taken them much deeper towards the Stanley Cup. He had the lowest goals-against-average of all three finalists, the highest save-percentage and is the main reason for Buffalo’s successes. That pretty much sums it up.
3. Norris Trophy—Best Defense Player
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Once again we have two players who earned this honor by playing some great defense for their teams, while still scoring goals.
Mike Green, the star defenseman on the Washington Capitals achieved this position by scoring like he was a forward. He is not at the level of Keith or Doughty, both of whom were named to Team Canada’s gold medal-winning roster for the Olympics. Keith and Doughty both played in all 82 games this year, and were second and third, respectively in points after Green for blue-liners. It’s going to be one of them, but it’s also going to be very close.
Pick: Drew Doughty—My choice is based on the fact that Doughty is practically a rookie and the anchor of L.A.’s defense. Besides for the young American talent in Jack Johnson, Doughty is the entire defense that the Kings have. He managed to play every game for them, finish with a plus 20 rating and put in five game-winning goals.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the award goes to Keith because the voters might feel that Doughty has his whole career ahead of him, but this first Norris could be the stepping stone he needs to become a superstar.
4. Calder Memorial Trophy—Best Rookie
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
It’s interesting how this year’s Calder finalists each play a different position.
Duchene finished third on the Avalanche in points, led the team with 10 power-play goals, and played in 81 of the 82 games this season, very solid stats for a rookie.
Howard, was given the starting role on a very expectant franchise and delivered, winning 37 games, posting three shutouts and his GAA and save percentage rival the Vezina finalists.
Myers, the tall, baby-faced defenseman on the Sabres, played every game for Buffalo and finished fifth on the team in scoring. Seeing as each of these finalists helped their teams in different ways, choosing is tough, but one stands out above them all.
Pick: Jimmy Howard —The Red Wings goalie was placed in the spotlight for a team (and city for that matter) that takes hockey very seriously. After reaching the Finals in the last two seasons, and winning it two years ago, Detroit was a favorite to go all the way again this year. Howard remained calm and played the position perfectly, leading the Red Wings to a solid finish. His numbers are great, and he achieved them in a tough division. Howard is the definite choice.
5. Lady Byng Trophy—Sportsmanship Coupled With High Level of Play
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Brad Richards, Dallas Stars
Pick: Martin St. Louis—This prediction needs no introduction. St. Louis was sixth in the league with 94 points, while playing a pretty terrible Tampa Bay team. With the exception of phenom Steven Stamkos, St. Louis was the top man on the Lightning, and did so with class, only receiving 12 penalty minutes all season. St. Louis is a great example of how hockey should be played and is very deserving of this award.
That’s it for this installment. Check in tomorrow for the rest of the picks which will be posted only a few short hours before the picks are made live in Vegas.