Jimmy Howard's Calder Trophy argument

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Howard.jpgAs we near the end of the season, we’re going to take a look at
who we think should be three finalists for the Hart, Norris and Calder
Trophies, making arguments for each. Next is the Calder trophy, the
NHL’s award for the Rookie of the Year. Next up: Detroit Red Wings
goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Why he deserves it: It’s amazing to think that after
such an incredible history the team has had for so long that Jimmy
Howard my finish with one of the best seasons a Detroit Red Wings
goaltender has ever had. The win total may not be as high or the
goals-against average as insanely low as we saw all those years ago, but
he’s enjoying one hell of a season as the Red Wings head into the
playoffs as the hottest team in the NHL.

Among goaltenders with at least 60 games played, Howard ranks third
in save percentage (0.924) and third in overall goals-against average
(2.27). He’s not far removed from the great numbers that Ryan Miller has
put up this season, someone many — including myself — are touting for
the Hart Trophy. While the Red Wings have certainly returned to the
level of play that propelled them to the finals last season, it’s been
Jimmy Howard that has provided the glue to hold this team together
through some rough stretches during the season. When you contrast
Howard’s play with that of his backup, Chris Osgood, it’s immediately
apparent just how great he’s been from start to finish for the Red
Wings.

Why he doesn’t deserve it: There are some who
argue that it’s the defensive system and the players in front of them
that make the Detroit goaltenders so good. After all, the Red Wings
consistently have some of the top defensive numbers in the NHL year
after year, no matter who is in net. It’s a flimsy argument when it
comes to Howard, however, and perhaps one could point to another rookie
goaltender who has been better. Tuukka Rask has played in 18 less games
than Howard, and has put up some astronomical numbers (1.97 GAA; .931
save %). If the Bruins had played Rask more this season, there’s a
chance we’d have his name here rather than Howard’s.

Why
he’ll get it:
The Red Wings are the hottest team in the NHL
headed into the playoffs, and Howard has played better and better as
each game goes by. He’s playing his best hockey of the season right now,
something that will certainly be fresh on the minds of voters. He’s
also very visible in his success in net, and it’s very easy to quantify a
Calder for Howard both based on number and based on the eyeball test.

Why
he won’t get it:
Perhaps for the reasons listed above;
sometimes voters may feel that it’s the defensive system that is helping
the goaltender over the actual play in net. The fact that Steve Mason, a
goalie, won last season may also play against him. The fact that Howard
is a bit older (26) compared to the much younger ages of the other
players in the mix may also play against him as well. While this is
certainly his first full season in the NHL, he’s had over four seasons
of experience in the AHL. Compare that to Myers (20) and Duchene (19)
who entered the NHL directly out of the Canadian juniors, and Howard may
be at a disadvantage.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”