Over the last couple of weeks the finalists for the NHL awards (at least those that interest me) have been announced. While I have already posted who I would vote for if I had an award ballot, we can infer a lot more from looking at the award nominees. Here are my comments on the finalists that have been announced:
Calder Trophy: Tyler Johnson Tampa Bay Lightning, Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche, Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning. These are the three highest scoring rookies. I wouldn't be surprised if they finish in the order of their point totals meaning MacKinnon gets the award. Missing out is Torey Krug of Boston. He is the top scoring defenceman this year and did a very good job as the power play point man for the top team in the regular season. The argument against Krug was that he didn't play as many minutes as top defencemen - though he played more minutes than any of the Calder nominee forwards. Given the minutes Zdeno Chara plays that is probably an unreasonable expectation for Krug. I have him as a close second behind MacKinnon.
Two days ago before the Los Angeles/Anaheim game was played I picked PK Subban as the reigning playoff MVP. Probably he was surpassed during the Los Angeles victory in a few hours by Anze Kopitar. Kopitar continues to play well and has an assist within the first minute of today's game. Kopitar is currently at 14 points and that number may continue to grow during today's game. This is a three point lead on anyone else in the playoffs. For such offensive dominance - with very good defensive play as well - Anze Kopitar is my current leader in the Conn Smythe race.
Kopitar is a top player in the NHL. If he can hold on to this Conn Smythe Trophy lead - which would require a significant Los Angeles playoff run - Kopitar would likely establish himself as a top NHL star. He has the talent to make that a possibility.
The first round of the AHL playoffs completed today. It was a best of five series for all the teams involved. Here is a summary of the results:
Norfolk Admirals beat Manchester Monarchs three games to one. Norfolk is the Anaheim Ducks farm team and Manchester belongs to Los Angeles. This was a close series; each Norfolk victory was a one goal win. Maxime Sauve led the Norfolk offence as their only player to score two goals. Sami Vatanen led their defence and had a team leading three assists. John Gibson had a strong performance in their goal. Andy Andreoff and Jordan Weal led the Manchester offence. Jean-Francois Berube manned their goal.
In the first round of the playoffs, I picked Tuukka Rask as the early playoff MVP. He had an outstanding first round when his Bruins dispatched the Detroit Red Wings; however his second round hasn't been so strong. He was not a top player in either of his second round games so far, thus I am picking a new playoff MVP. My pick is PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. Subban has nine points from defence in his six playoff games so far and has earned the hatred of the Boston Bruin fans.
Subban is a very talented player. He is one of the most talented players in the NHL. He has not learned to give an effort worthy of his talent level on a regular basis through a long season. However Subban giving his best in the big games and in a good portion of the regular season games is clearly a top player. If he learns a little consistency, he may be the best defenceman in the game. He has been the best player through the beginning of the playoffs.
It wasn't too long ago that the stupidest most irresponsible fans of a team had no venue to show off their stupidity. Those were the good old days.
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in two overtime periods. This gave them a 1-0 lead in their second round series. PK Subban scored two goals in the game including the overtime winner. Some of the Bruin fans took to twitter to show off their ignorance.
Subban is one of the few black players in the NHL and this prompted these Bruins fans to display their racism. There was a tweet showing a noose that said "Tied something for Subban" and others calling him "the n word". Although this is not a representative sample of the Bruins fans, it was bad enough that Boston president Cam Neely released a statement that these fans do not speak for the Bruins organization.
I long for the good old days when idiot fans did not have the ability to display their ignorance internationally.
Steve Mason was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2009. His career looked like it was on its way to stardom. In his next almost four years in Columbus he was unable to replicate those numbers. He almost played himself out of the NHL. In 2013 he was traded to Philadelphia for a 3rd round draft pick and Michael Leighton, who was almost immediately allowed to walk away to the KHL. It was likely Mason's last chance to stay in the NHL.
Mason put up some strong numbers in his late season tryout with the Flyers and he was signed to a new contract and pencilled in to be the Flyers starting goalie in 2013/14. That looked to many like a recipe for disaster. However disaster never happened. In the regular season, Mason put up career bests in goals against average and saves percentage (1.90 and .917 respectively). These numbers were better than his rookie of the year numbers. He kept it up into the playoffs. He currently stands second to Tuukka Rask in both GAA and saves percentage in the playoffs (1.97 and .939 respectively). The Flyers may not have won in the first round but Mason gets no blame and nothing but rave reviews for his play.
The question is what do we expect going forward?
The first round of the playoffs concluded today and my first round predictions did well. I picked seven of the eight first round series correctly. My mistake was picking Colorado over Minnesota. When a series goes to overtime in a seventh game, all you can really conclude is that the two teams were well-matched and either could have won the series.
As for a 7-1 record in the first round, I did very well. It requires a combination of luck and hockey knowledge to do that well. Ironically commenter redxblack quickly criticized my picks because apparently I did not pick enough upsets. When he made his own picks he went 2-6. So I guess he lived by his idea of picking upsets but he didn't make himself look like much of a hockey expert. I have coins that can do better.
Onward to my second round predictions.
The Anaheim Ducks won their first round playoff series against the Dallas Stars and are waiting to play the winner of the San Jose/ Los Angeles series. They won their first round series largely with rookie Frederik Andersen in goal. Andersen did not post particularly good numbers in the first round series. He had a 3.40 GAA and a .892 saves percentage. In two games he was replaced by veteran Jonas Hiller. All told Hiller played a little over forty minutes in the first round and did not allow any goals.
Hiller will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and seemed to fall out of favor with Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau. He has tried to replace Hiller in the later part of the season in order to prepare for next season when Hiller will likely be gone. The hope in Anaheim is that young goalies Andersen and John Gibson could carry the load. It isn't clear that a top team can remain a contender by jettisoning their only proven NHL goalie.
Two different teams announced new general managers today. The Calgary Flames announced that former Phoenix Coyote assistant GM Brad Treliving will be their next general manager and the Carolina Hurricanes announced Ron Francis will be their next general manager.
Brad Treliving has the resume a potentially good general manager. After a professional hockey career where he never made the NHL, he ran the start-up Western Professional Hockey League which ran in the southern US from 1996-2001. He got this opportunity because of his father Jim Treliving who owns the investment portfolio T & M Group of Companies and is one of the "dragons" on CBC's Dragons' Den where people pitch business ideas. He was successful in this roll and the WPHL was bought out by the Central Hockey League and Brad Treliving remained in charge. In 2007 he left and became an assistant GM in Phoenix. Given the financial constraints on the Coyotes as they went through bankruptcy and league ownership, they have done well during his run. While he got his start on the business side of hockey because of family connections he has done a pretty good job in a wide range of hockey positions. Treliving has the potential to be a very good GM. Like a player with potential, he may not succeed, but he has a good chance.
When the regular season ended, I made my award picks. My Norris Trophy nominees are Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, Alex Pietrangelo of the St Louis Blues and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. Interestingly they are the top three players in the NHL by playing time per game right now in the playoffs. That in no way justifies my award selections, as they are made based on the regular season, but the fact that when games matter the most teams play these guys more than anyone else shows that they are good picks. This is a strong argument that these three are top NHL players.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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