Top candidates for NHL awards emerge
A week of regular-season games remain, but thats not going to stop us from selecting our individual award winners in the NHL.
But first, a word or two about the season.
No doubt the annual Winter Classic and accompanying five outdoor games in the Stadium Series was ambitious, but the venture was a success in terms of attendance, ratings and entertaining outcomes.
While the NHL had little to gain, the Olympics probably gave the sport another shot in the arm. Realignment and a new scheduling matrix allowed fans to see every team, and that worked. The playoff race has been predictably gripping thanks to the continued parity the salary-cap era provides.
Player safety is still a concern as, while Brendan Shanahan handed out deserved suspensions left and right, were not sure how much the head hit culture has really changed. At least theyre trying.
Now were left with the playoffs ahead. Its always nice to save the best for last.
As for the trophies ...
Hart (MVP): Forwards Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh, Anaheims Ryan Getzlaf and Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick rank as finalists. With 36 goals and 66 assists, Crosby is - and will be - the only 100-point player in the league. Quick would be a surprise selection here for some, but for my money its Getzlaf (31 goals, 84 points and plus-30 before Friday). His body of work against tougher Western Conference competition, in addition to keeping the Ducks on or near the top of the leagues overall standings much of the year, tips the balance in his favor.
Vezina (goalie): Bostons Tuukka Rask, Tampa Bays Ben Bishop and L.A.s Quick are the finalists. Bishop has done the most with the least. Hes a workhorse (61 games) with solid numbers (2.18 goals-against, .926 save percentage) accomplished behind a young team. Rask leads in shutouts (seven) and is top-5 in all other significant categories. But if you needed to win one game, youd want Quick. Hes the best, and were not going to penalize him because he plays in a defensive system with lots of support.
Norris (top defenseman): Bostons massive Zdeno Chara is probably the most difficult blue liner to beat, and you cant ignore the 20 goals and position-best 70 points by Ottawas offensively-gifted Erik Karlsson despite his minus-18 rating, but the best overall performer is Chicagos Duncan Keith. Hes second in blue line scoring (51 of his 57 points on assists) and a plus-18, the only plus skater among the top six scorers at the position. The fact hes a leader on the defending Stanley Cup champs adds to his resume.
Calder (rookie): Colorado nailed the first pick in 2013 with Nathan MacKinnon. The 18-year-old center wins the award with 23 goals, 58 points and a plus-21 while averaging 17:11 of ice time for a team thats going to finish ahead of the Blackhawks. Tampa Bays undrafted Tyler Johnson (23 goals, 48 points) and Torey Krug, a free-agent surprise for Boston, cracked a veteran roster to average 17:29 a night as the top-scoring defenseman (14 goals, 37 points) and are among the finalists. The Sharks Tomas Hertl was the early-season leader here before getting injured.
Selke (best defensive forward): Three outstanding two-way skaters make it as finalists. Los Angeles Anze Kopitar (plus-29) wins it. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and Bostons Patrice Bergeron follow.
Lady Bing (gentlemanly play): Dallas Tyler Seguin (16 penalty minutes in 74 games) should feel little shame as the winner. San Joses Patrick Marleau (18 PIM in 78 games) and Marty St. Louis of the Rangers (10 PIM) follow.
Adams (coach): An argument can be made for at least eight individuals, but no one brought his team further than Patrick Roy of the Avalanche. Tampa Bays John Cooper and Detroits Mike Babcock are Nos. 2-3. A shout out to Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis, Anaheims Bruce Boudreau, the Sharks Todd McLellan, Pittsburghs Dan Bylsma and Phillys Craig Berube.Sharks on Saturday
Who: Predators (33-32-11) vs. Sharks (49-20-9)
Where: SAP Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: CSNCA / 98.5, 102.1
Ross McKeon is a freelance writer. Twitter: @rossmckeon