Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey | Last updated 12/2/11
Every other week, we’ll bring you an updated look at the candidates for the major awards around the NHL…
1. Phil Kessel, TOR
Stats: 25 GP, 16 G, 16 A, 32 Pts, +1
Kessel has been huge for the Leafs this season. Unlike previous years, he has been a consistent offensive force. He gets better as the games go on, as he has eight third period goals to his record. On top of that, he already has three game-winners. It’s a really close race right now, and it seems the favorite changes daily.
2. Claude Giroux, PHI
Stats: 23 GP, 13 G, 16 A, 29 Pts, +3
There have been multiple injuries and line changes for the Flyers, but the one constant is Giroux. Kessel has more goals, assists and points, but you can make a solid argument that Giroux has been the better all-around player. Giroux makes the Flyers go, but will need to keep up with the red-hot Kessel.
3. Jonathan Toews, CHI
Stats: 25 GP, 13 G, 12 A, 25 Pts, +8
After Kessel and Giroux, the rest of the Hart picture is unclear. However, Toews has been a big key to the Blackhawks’ success this season. Since Nov. 10, Toews has 16 points in 10 games, including three game-winning goals; Toews has four on the season, which is tied for the league lead. Aside from the production, the ‘Hawks captain does it all and is the team’s heart and soul.
1. Tim Thomas, BOS
Stats: 12-4-0, 1.93 GAA, .936 SV%, 3 SO
Last year’s Vezina winner has comparable stats to 2010-11, yet hasn’t been the same game-changer. He played well in the early going, but the Bruins’ offense was anemic. Now Thomas could give up four goals and still win. Thomas didn’t lose a game in November and, somehow at his age, is getting better.
2. Jimmy Howard, DET
Stats: 14-5-1, 1.87 GAA, .929 SV%, 3 SO
Howard always gets the glass-half-empty treatment from hockey fans, who believe his success is based purely on the team in front of him. This season, though, Howard has had to be on his A-game more nights than not. He leads the NHL in wins and has already surpassed his shutout from last year, with three. Whether or not you like it, Howard is a Vezina candidate.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Stats: 10-4-3, 2.10 GAA, .933 SV%, 2 SO
The rest of the Vezina race is wide open, but Lundqvist continues to be a stalwart in the Rangers’ net. He’s a big reason why the Blueshirts are currently breathing down the necks of the Penguins. Given how steady he has always been, it’s hard to believe ‘King Henrik’ has yet to win this award. If he continues to put up these numbers, he’ll certainly be in the Vezina discussion all year.
1. Zdeno Chara, BOS
Stats: 23 GP, 5 G, 13 A, 18 Pts, +15
Like his teammates, the Boston captain really kicked his game into high gear in November. Chara was dominant last month, racking up 14 points and a plus-14 rating in 13 games. He is staying more disciplined and raised his level of dominance from where it was in October. Chara is always in the Norris discussion; this year will be no different.
2. Shea Weber, NSH
Stats: 25 GP, 5 G, 13 A, 18 Pts, +15
When you talk about defensemen and sheer dominance, Weber is at the top of that list. After a bit of a slow start, the Predators blue liner is picking up steam. Since Oct. 25, the captain has 16 points and a plus-14 rating. His 18 points are second on the Predators, only trailing Craig Smith. Weber means everything to the Preds and is unquestionably among the elite on the blue line.
3. Kris Letang, PIT
Stats: 22 GP, 3 G, 16 A, 19 Pts, +5
We saw Letang take the next step last year, but this year he looks like an even better defenseman. Letang, who is currently sidelined with a suspected concussion, is playing in all situations, logging the fifth-most ice time per game in the NHL (26:10). He is fourth amongst defensemen in points and has been valuable to a Penguins blue line that has suffered injuries early on.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, EDM
Stats: 25 GP, 11 G, 16 A, 27 Pts, +4
This is a no-brainer. The top overall pick from this past summer has exceeded expectations through the first quarter. In 25 games, he has looked better than other recent No. 1 picks in their rookie seasons. ‘RNH’ has been a catalyst for the Oilers, who are hanging around in the West’s playoff picture.
2. Craig Smith, NSH
Stats: 25 GP, 7 G, 13 A, 20 Pts
Every time Smith is on the ice, he’s a threat to score or set up a teammate. Other than his offensive skills, Predators head coach Barry Trotz compares Smith’s speed to Teemu Selanne. Though Smith has not scored since his infamous missed empty-netter, he continues to produce for an offensively-challenged team.
3. Matt Read, PHI
Stats: 20 GP, 9 G, 5 A, 14 Pts, +9
Philadelphia’s undrafted rookie ranks fifth among first-year players in points, second in goals. Read has been a valuable secondary scorer for the Flyers, and is receiving the third-most ice time per game among Flyers forwards. He is effective in all situations and is only going to get better.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Kevin Dineen, FLA
Record: 13-8-4, 3rd Eastern Conference
The Florida Panthers simply aren’t going anywhere. Dineen is one of many rookie head coaches that are turning heads in the first two months. Remarkably, the Panthers lead the Southeast Division. Dineen is doing a great job getting a team full of new faces to buy in and compete every night. If they make their first playoff appearance since 2000, Dineen should win the Jack Adams unanimously.
2. Mike Yeo, MIN
Record: 15-7-3, 1st Western Conference
Like Florida, the Minnesota Wild have been one of many surprises this year. The goaltending has been a catalyst for a team that doesn’t have much depth. Yeo has been a breath of fresh air for the Wild, who lead the West and are off to their best start in franchise history.
3. Dave Tippett, PHX
Record: 11-6-0, 8th Western Conference
Many believed the loss of Ilya Bryzgalov would be too much for Phoenix to be a playoff contender. Man, have the Coyotes proved those doubters wrong. Tippett deserves a lot of the credit for keep the team’s success at a high level. With Mike Smith in net instead of Bryzgalov, it’s more of an example that Tippett’s system is churning out wins.
*Stats through Thursday, December 1
Photo credit: Getty Images
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