x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

NHL has plenty of worthy candidates for end-of-year honours

End-of-year awards in the NHL have many 'coulda's and 'woulda's but only one winner per trophy. Gregg Patton reports.

Jonathan Toews is among league leaders in scoring, plus-minus and face-offs won, and a favourite to win the Hart Trophy.
Jonathan Toews is among league leaders in scoring, plus-minus and face-offs won, and a favourite to win the Hart Trophy.

As the regular season ends, and before the play-offs begin, the debate rises over who the NHL's major trophy winners might be, could be, and should be ...

X-Hart Trophy (most valuable player) It might have been Alex Ovechkin if he had not taken half of the season to kick it into high gear and lead Washington Capitals to a play-off spot.

It still could be Sidney Crosby, the runaway favourite until he got hurt last month - except Pittsburgh Penguins were just as formidable without. So it should be Jonathan Toews of Chicago.

The Blackhawks were terrific from beginning to end, and the 24-year-old centre was their most dependable player. A special team cog, he also was among the league leaders in scoring, takeaways, plus-minus and face-off winning percentage.

X-Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) It might have been Tuukka Rask, who had great numbers on a very good team and made Boston Bruins fans quickly forget about Tim Thomas's early retirement.

It could be workhorse Antii Niemi of San Jose, who got better in the net when the Sharks' offence fell through a hole in the ice.

But it is definitely going to be Sergei Bobrovsky.

Unquestionably he was the star in Columbus, the only reason the punchless Blue Jackets stayed in the play-off hunt.

The 24-year-old Russian faced the most shots of any of the league's save percentage leaders, and could be a Hart candidate, as well.

X-Norris Trophy (best defenceman) It might have been Francois Beauchemin, who logged more than 23 minutes per game for Anaheim Ducks, and combined a sparkling plus-minus rating with a scoring touch.

It could be PK Subban of Montreal, the league's highest scoring defenceman who leaves bruises on opponents. But it should be Ryan Suter, who averaged more than 27 minutes of ice time and put Minnesota Wild in the play-off chase.

X-Calder Trophy (top rookie) It might have been Jonathan Huberdeau of Florida, who logged the most ice time of the high-scoring rookie forwards, but plays on a bad team. It could be Jonas Brodin for his steady work alongside Suter in Minnesota, but defenders rarely win.

So it should be Cory Conacher of Ottawa, a promising playmaker who helped the embattled Senators reach the post-season.

X-Jack Adams Trophy (coach of the year) It might have been Jack Capuano, who steered the lightly regarded New York Islanders to a play-off berth.

It could be Randy Carlyle, who did the same for the long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs.

But it should be Paul MacLean who lost his best defender and top scorer in Ottawa, and still led the Senators to the play-offs.




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