For the past three seasons Alexander Ovechkin has led the NHL in points per game (at least among people with a significant number of games played). It was expected that Ovechkin would be at or around the top in the scoring race again this year in points and in points per game and he is in the race. He is the 11th highest scorer so far this season with 45 points and 13th in points per game with 1.02 points per game. For almost any player in hockey that is a good season, but for a player who realistically expected to be number one this is a poorer than expected showing.
If we prorate Ovechkin’s totals this season, he will finish with 28 goals, 56 assists and 84 points. Those are good totals. Last year, he had 50 goals, 58 assists and 108 points. Thus his assist rate is essentially on track. It is his goals that have declined significantly.
In November, I picked Sergei Bobrovsky of the Philadelphia Flyers as the Calder Trophy leader. At that time he had a .926 saves percentage and a 2.19 GAA. Since then Bobrovsky’s numbers have fallen a bit to a .917 saves percentage and a 2.55 GAA. He has not played as frequently as he did in the early season, as Brian Boucher has taken over a significant portion of the playing load. This has allowed other candidates to enter the race.
The top scorers among rookies are Jeff Skinner and Logan Couture. While they are having strong rookie seasons, they are both well back of the top scorers in the league. This doesn’t make them the standout rookies that typically win the Calder Trophy, despite the fact it appears most of the media is behind one of them.
It is all star game season. This month we have the NHL All Star Game and the AHL All Star Game. That isn’t the end of it. There is also the CHL Prospects Game that will be played in Toronto on January 18th and 19th.
This game consists of two teams of twenty players who are eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft who play in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL. They are organized onto two teams: Team Cherry (coached by Don Cherry) and Team Orr (coached by Bobby Orr).
Here are the rosters:
The AHL All Star Game will be played January 30th and 31st in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Each team has 23 players; 12 forwards, eight defencemen and three goaltenders. This game regularly produces future NHL players. Last year’s game included PK Subban, Logan Couture, Jonathan Bernier, John Carlson and Michal Neuvirth. Likely, a similar number of NHLers to be are in this year’s game.
Here are the rosters:
For the first time this season, there is a single clear leader in the AHL scoring race. When I last took a look at it before Christmas, David Desharnais of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens affiliate) was in the lead. He has been called up to the NHL. He has three NHL games so far with one assist scored. It isn’t clear that he won’t be back in the AHL soon, but in his absence Corey Locke of the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa affiliate) has taken over the lead in the race.
Locke has 51 points. This gives him a six point lead over Desharnais and a nine point lead over Alexandre Giroux of the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton affiliate). Giroux is the second highest scorer in the league behind Locke, who is not currently in the NHL.
The NHL is going to announce the 42 players who will play in the 2011 All Star Game, which will be played in the last weekend in January and hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, in the upcoming week. Thus I thought I would make my picks first. There are six players voted to the game by the fans: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. I gave myself the constraints that I think the NHL will use, that each team must be represented by at least one player and that there is no point adding a player who is injured and likely will not be healthy in time for the game.
Here are my picks:
I try to track the worst player who is regularly playing in the NHL. I think it is instructive to see what kind of player continues to get ice time in the NHL despite failing to play well. Just before Christmas, I picked Rod Pelley of the New Jersey Devils for this dishonor.
It is hard to remain the worst regular in the NHL. If you play well, you won’t remain the worst regular in the league. If you play too poorly, you usually find yourself unable to remain an NHL regular. In Pelley’s case, he has played too well. He has scored two of his three points this season in the past two weeks. Thus he is no longer the worst regular in the league. My new choice is Brett Lebda of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
When I wrote I now consider Zdeno Chara a Hall of Famer I assessed the Norris Trophy race this season and called Zdeno Chara a darkhorse candidate for a Norris Trophy nomination this season. Given the Detroit Red Wings biases around here many people are upset that I am not pushing Nicklas Lidstrom as the frontrunner for this award. In fact, I think Kris Letang should win the award if the season ended right now.
I argue that there is no really great defensive performance this season. Duncan Keith is not playing as well as he did last year. Mike Green is not playing as well as he did last year. Drew Doughty is not playing as well as he did last year. None of the three Norris nominees are playing at the level they did last year.
One interesting question I try to track is at which point an active player cements his case as a Hockey Hall of Famer. At what point should he be inducted regardless of what happens in the rest of his career? I think Zdeno Chara has reached that level. This is not because of any single recent event, but rather looking at the totality of his career at this point.
Chara has won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL in 2009. He was also a first team All Star in 2004 as well as his 2009 Norris year. In 2006 and 2008, he was a second team All Star. He has been a strong performer for Slovakia in international play, having been on their last two Olympic teams.
In the medal round, USA and Sweden met in the bronze medal/ 4th place game. Canada and Russia met in the gold/ silver medal game.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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