Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/27/15
The NHL award races are starting to heat up with just over a month remaining in the regular season. Several of the awards lack a clear frontrunner, which should make for exciting races and intense debates as the season winds down. Check out NESN.com’s inaugural trophy tracker below. Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player) 1) Ryan Getzlaf, Center, Anaheim Ducks 2) Phil Kessel, Right Wing, Toronto Maple Leafs 3) Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins This is an extremely tight race, but Getzlaf deserves a slight edge for a few reasons. He’s the league’s third-leading scorer (71 points, including a career-high 29 goals, in 61 games) in a Western Conference that’s much tougher than the East, he’s the best even-strength scorer in the league (3.38 points per 60 minutes) and his 2:14 of short-handed ice time per game is far more than any other candidate for this award. He also ranks third with seven game-winning goals. Getzlaf is consistently providing scoring, strong defense (Ducks rank fifth in goals against) and excellent special teams play for a Ducks team that has the second-best record in the NHL. Without Kessel’s 74 points (second-most in league) and 34 goals (third-most in league), the Leafs likely would be outside the playoff picture. Toronto’s lack of scoring depth has put a ton of the pressure on the top line of Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk and Kessel to play well every night, and the trio has responded consistently. Even though Kessel is primarily a goal scorer, his playmaking ability is quite impressive, evidenced by his 39 assists. When he doesn’t tally a point, the Leafs are 5-18-2. If this award was for most outstanding player, Crosby would be a lock. His 87 points in 64 games is outstanding, but 33 of them have come on the league’s No. 1 power play, and despite leading the league in scoring by a 14-point margin, he’s only a plus-9. With that said, he’s scored a point in 49 of his team’s 64 games, is winning 52 percent of his faceoffs and has 36 takeaways. James Norris Trophy (Best All-Around Defenseman) 1) Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks 2) Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild 3) Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues Extraskater.com It would be a real surprise if Keith didn’t win his second Norris Trophy this season. He ranks second among defensemen in scoring (50 points), first in assists (47) and sixth in shots (162).  Keith also has been a force on special teams with 19 power-play points and 2:22 of short-handed ice time per game. His ability to move the puck quickly to start the break out and evade the opponent’s forecheck has helped Chicago rank second in puck possession. Keith regularly plays against elite competition and averages 24:29 of ice time per game. Suter was a finalist last season and likely will be again. He leads all defensemen with 29:52 of ice time per game and plays a major role on Minnesota’s special teams (3:40 power-play and 2:32 short-handed ice time per game). He’s tallied 35 points in 64 games. Calder Trophy (Best Rookie) 1) Nathan MacKinnon, Center, Colorado Avalanche 2) Torey Krug, Defenseman, Boston Bruins 3) Hampus Lindholm, Defenseman, Anaheim Ducks When San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl suffered an injury in December and needed several months to recover from surgery, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon quickly took over the rookie of the year race. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft leads all rookies in goals (22), assists (29), points (51), game-winning goals (five) and shots (184). His recent 13-game point streak broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old. MacKinnon will win the Calder unless he ends the season with a gigantic slump. Krug could make a late push if he continues to put up points. He leads all rookie defensemen in goals (13) and scoring (35). Krug also ranks second among all rookies in shots (153) and first in power-play points (18). Lindholm could be this year’s Jonas Brodin. Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender) 1) Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning 2) Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins 3) Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres/St. Louis Blues Bishop’s consistently stellar performance helped the Lightning maintain a playoff position in the three months that superstar center Steven Stamkos missed with an injury. He’s the only netminder with at least 40 games played ranked in the top five of GAA (fifth, 2.10) and save percentage (third, .929). Bishop is the main reason why Tampa Bay, a team that lacks an elite No. 1 defenseman, ranks 13th in GAA after finishing 26th last season. Rask will make a strong push for the top spot. He has a fantastic 28-14-4 record and ranks third in save percentage (.926). The 27-year-old also leads the league with six shutouts. Miller was phenomenal in Buffalo despite having to face over 30 shots and many quality scoring chances each game, and he’s been excellent (4-0, 1.50 GAA) since joining St. Louis at the trade deadline. Frank Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) 1) Patrice Bergeron, Center, Boston Bruins 2) Jonathan Toews, Center, Chicago Blackhawks 3) Ryan O’Reilly, Center, Colorado Avalanche Extraskater.com Bergeron is the main reason why the Bruins rank second in goals against and fourth in puck possession. He consistently defends the other team’s top players and starts 71.5 percent of his even-strength shifts in the neutral or defensive zones. He ranks third in faceoff win percentage (59.2), first in faceoffs taken (1,389) and first in draws won (822). His 2:01 of short-handed ice time per game leads the Bruins. Sometimes the best defense is not letting the other team to control the puck, and Bergeron ranks first in possession with a 5v5 CF% of 61.1. When he’s on the ice, it’s difficult for the opposing team to keep the puck away from Boston. Bergeron is a near-lock to win this award unless his defensive performance shockingly declines over the next month. Jack Adams Award (Best Head Coach) 1) Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche 2) Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning 3) Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks Roy and Cooper are 1A and 1B in the coach of the year race. Roy gets a slight advantage because his team has a better record (89 points, third in central), plays in a tougher conference and division and has a very young roster. Roy’s fiery temper behind the bench and motivational skills have an inexperienced team believing it can beat anyone. Cooper has done a brilliant job developing young players in Tampa (specifically rookie forward Tyler Johnson), and his brilliance in this area was one of the main reasons why he was promoted from AHL head coach in Syracuse to Lightning bench boss. His team is well-structured defensively and takes much better care of the puck compared to last season. McLellan has led the Sharks to second place in a tough Pacific division despite star players such as Logan Couture and defenseman Dan Boyle missing significant time with injuries. San Jose is a balanced team that ranks seventh in goals scored, fourth in goals against and sixth in penalty killing. The Sharks are headed toward a fifth-straight 96-plus point regular season (excluding lockout years), and it’s time for McLellan to be recognized for his team’s consistency. Advanced stats courtesy of Extraskater.comFiled under: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL, Nicholas Goss, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Top Stories, Vancouver Canucks
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