Every other week, we’ll bring you an updated look at the candidates for the major awards around the NHL…
1. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
Stats: 48 GP, 30 G, 37 A, 67 Pts, +8
It goes without saying, but ‘Geno has been magnificent this season. He battled through injury in the first quarter, but has turned it on ever since Sidney Crosby re-exited the lineup, putting the Penguins on his back during their 10-2-1 run since Jan. 11. Malkin leads the NHL in points after his five-point game against Winnipeg. During the Pens’ great run as a team, every goal or assist of Malkin’s seems to be coming at a key time in the game. There isn’t a better player in the world right now.
2. Claude Giroux, PHI
Stats: 51 GP, 22 G, 40 A, 62 Pts, -2
You could make an argument that no player has meant more to his team than Giroux to the Flyers. The 23-year-old budding star is Mr. Everything for the Flyers and is elite in many facets of the game. Giroux, who is tied for second in the NHL in points, has been clutch for his team all year. His MVP stock has dropped a bit since the Winter Classic, especially because the Flyers have not been the same team. Expect Giroux and the Flyers to turn it around down the stretch.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Stats: 25-11-4, 1.81 GAA, .939 SV%, 6 SO
At this time of year, we always debate whether goalies should be included in the Hart Trophy discussion. Two years ago it should have been Ryan Miller. Last year it should have been Pekka Rinne. Goaltenders usually do not get the benefit of the doubt, since they have their own award. But if one goalie could break through, it’s Lundqvist. When you consider the market he plays in, his team’s success and his standout season between the pipes, he probably has a good of a shot as any to contend for the MVP.
1. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Stats: 25-11-4, 1.81 GAA, .939 SV%, 6 SO
Lundqvist continues to be a stalwart and is actually getting better as this season goes along. He’s a big reason why the Blueshirts are playing their best hockey of the year and have taken the lead in the Eastern Conference. ‘King Henrik’ is also arguably playing the best of his career. If he continues to put up these numbers, he’ll be near the top of the Vezina discussion the rest of the way.
2. Jonathan Quick, LA
Stats: 23-14-10, 1.91 GAA, .934 SV%, 6 SO
Quick continues to rise in the Vezina race, and this week leapfrogs Tim Thomas. Playing on the west coast, not the entire hockey world gets to see Quick go to work every game. But Quick has been the catalyst for a Kings team that has (a) been inconsistent through the first four months and (b) had a hard time scoring goals. He is ranked in the top three in the following categories – shutouts (T-1st), GAA (3rd) and save percentage (3rd).
3. Tim Thomas, BOS
Stats: 23-10-0, 2.18 GAA, .931 SV%, 4 SO
Like Giroux, Thomas has seen his stock for a major award in the last month. Thomas’ peripherals have regressed since the New Year; I’ve mentioned it before, but he’s not the game-changer he was in 2010-11. Something going against Thomas in this year’s Vezina race is that his offense has given him so much goal support; the Bruins have scored five goals or more in 10 of Thomas’ starts.
1. Shea Weber, NSH
Stats: 52 GP, 11 G, 26 A, 37 Pts, +20
There isn’t much separating the top three (or top seven, for that matter), but Weber means everything to the Preds and is unquestionably among the elite on the blueline. He is second on the Preds in points (37), first in plus/minus (+20) and is a big reason why the power play is ranked second in the NHL. He has shown on many occasions this season why he’s an all-around dominant defenseman with countless Norris-like performances.
2. Zdeno Chara, BOS
Stats: 51 GP, 8 G, 23 A, 31 Pts, +25
Chara has been his dominant self since the start of Novembers, racking up 25 points and a plus-25 rating in 40 games. ‘Big Z’, who is always in the Norris discussion, has been invaluable to the Bruins’ success in recent years. 2011-12 is no different. He changes the way opponents game-plan, which is a sign that he is a special defenseman.
3. Erik Karlsson, OTT
Stats: 57 GP, 9 G, 41 A, 50 Pts, +8
Ottawa proved many doubters wrong by sitting six points outside of the conference lead at the All-Star break – and Karlsson had a lot to do with that. Despite the team’s recent slide, they wouldn’t be in playoff contention without Karlsson. There isn’t much offensive depth to begin with, so Karlsson’s league-leading production from the back end (41 assists, 50 points) has been crucial. The 21-year-old, on pace for 70 points, has been Ottawa’s MVP this season.
1a. Adam Henrique, NJ
Stats: 47 GP, 14 G, 21 A, 35 Pts, +8
To say Henrique has been a pleasant surprise in New Jersey would be an understatement. Henrique is fourth on the Devils in points and was a point-per-game player since the start of November before a recent drop-off. He may not have the flashiness like Nugent-Hopkins, but they are now tied in points. Henrique currently leads the Calder race by a smidge.
1b. Gabriel Landeskog, COL
Stats: 57 GP, 13 G, 17 A, 30 Pts, +15
Landeskog isn’t exactly knocking on the door for the rookie scoring race, but the No. 2 overall pick from last summer is raising eyebrows around the league. His all-around play has been impressive for his age, yet something that most scouts expected; coming out of the draft, Landeskog was said to be the most NHL-ready. His plus-15 rating is second amongst rookies, but impressive considering the Avalanche boasting a minus-13 goal differential as a team.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, EDM
Stats: 40 GP, 13 G, 22 A, 35 Pts, -3
This was a no-brainer before twice going down with a shoulder injury. The top overall pick from this past summer exceeded expectations through the first half, and has looked better than other recent No. 1 picks in their rookie seasons. He also leads the Oilers in points as a part of the dynamic trio with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. But ‘RNH’ now has company atop the Calder race.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Ken Hitchcock, STL
Record: 33-14-7, 4th Western Conference
The before and after results of Hitchcock’s arrival in St. Louis is staggering. When Davis Payne was fired, the Blues were 6-7-0; since Hitchcock stepped behind the bench they are 27-7-7. Hitchcock has given the Blues the proper wake-up call, and they are now fulfilling their potential. If this success keeps up, he has to be Jack Adams favorite, no?
2. Barry Trotz, NSH
Record: 32-18-6, 5th Western Conference
Trotz is doing it again. The Predators aren’t just competing for a playoff spot, though, as they are on a mission to hunt down the division-leading Red Wings. Trotz’s gang is 20-7-2 since Dec. 8 (a season-defining comeback in Columbus), as they continue to surge in the West. The Preds have faced adversity a few times this season, but Trotz has kept the team going in the right direction.
3. John Tortorella, NYR
Record: 35-13-5, 1st Eastern Conference
One of the season’s biggest surprises has been the New York Rangers. Aside from the Brad Richards signing, there isn’t much difference between this year’s Rangers and last year’s version. But Tortorella is pushing all of the right buttons as his team leads the Eastern Conference with 75 points (a franchise-record 116-point pace. The Blueshirts have been the league’s most consistent team since the start of November.
*Stats through Saturday, February 11
Photo credit: Getty Images
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