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: Predators even series with Sharks after franchise-record triple OT thriller

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The marathon is over. The Nashville Predators are back in the series.

The Predators have evened their best-of-seven second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at two-games apiece after Mike Fisher finally broke the deadlock with 8:48 remaining in the third overtime of an instant classic in these 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fisher buried a rebound in front of the San Jose net to give the Predators a massive 4-3 win on home ice.

The goal capped off a frenetic (and lengthy) overtime session that was nothing but utter chaos at times in the opening extra frame. By the end, Fisher was almost too exhausted to describe the winner. Can you blame him?

Twice, the Sharks, who could’ve put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win, thought they had scored the winner. Joel Ward couldn’t quite bury a wrap-around attempt before just about every player on the ice, it seemed, converged in the Nashville crease — some working to put the puck in the net, others working to keep the puck out.

The puck, somehow, never crossed the line, though some members of the Sharks raised their arms in celebration as if they had the decisive goal.

Later in the first OT period, the Sharks again thought they had won the game, only to have a lengthy and controversial review determine Joe Pavelski “…made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease,” according to the league.

Adding to it all, the Predators were unsuccessful on two OT power plays. That opened the door for the Sharks, who were awarded power plays on two Shea Weber penalties in overtime but also couldn’t capitalize.

The Predators were less than five minutes away from losing this game in regulation, and going down 3-1 in the series, before James Neal tied it with 4:21 remaining.

‘We earned it,’ says Spezza after Stars regroup to even series with Blues

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) looks on as Dallas Stars forward Jason Spezza, second from right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
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The Dallas Stars faced the possibility of going home facing elimination. That was the scenario Thursday, as the Stars battled the St. Louis Blues in Game 4.

The previous game didn’t go well at all for the Stars. They were thumped 6-1, as things turned nasty between the two teams, and, most importantly, they fell behind in the series. There were serious questions surrounding their goalie duo that includes Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. And Tyler Seguin was ruled out for Game 4.

Yes, things weren’t working in favor of the Stars.

But after a poor start in the opening period Thursday, the Stars fought back with Cody Eakin playing the unlikely overtime hero in a crucial Game 4 win. And Lehtonen was able to settle in after allowing that Vladimir Tarasenko goal in the opening period, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

“You really do have to stay level,” Jason Spezza told the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s the best two-of-three now, it’s momentum swings. We survived some breakaways, and the last two periods we played right and we earned it.”

Video: Game 4 overtime between Sharks and Predators has been utter chaos

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Overtime between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks in Game 4 has been, simply put, crazy.

Take, for instance, this goal-mouth scramble around the Predators crease in which Joel Ward couldn’t convert on the wrap-around and the sequence turned into a full-on scrum as players for both teams fought desperately to either score or somehow keep the puck out of the net. Somehow, the puck stays out.

The Predators need a win to even the series. The Sharks can put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win.

Oh, and the controversial video review as the Sharks thought they had the winner, as Joe Pavelski swept the puck into the net after a collision with Pekka Rinne.

Here’s an explanation from the NHL Situation Room:

At 7:34 of overtime in the Sharks/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed that San Jose’s Joe Pavelski made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease.

Therefore the original call stands – no goal San Jose Sharks.

Cody Eakin plays unlikely hero as Stars even series with Blues thanks to OT win

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Needing a win to even the series with the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars didn’t get off to the greatest start Thursday.

On a rather embarrassing play in the first period of a crucial Game 4, the Stars were caught on the television feed clearly with six skaters on the ice, but still surrendered a breakaway goal on a stretch pass to a wide open Vladimir Tarasenko — 1-0 Blues. Again, not a great start for the Stars.

Sometimes in hockey, it’s apparently not always about how you start but how you finish. The Stars gained strength during the second period on goals from Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp just 1:09 apart. Early in overtime, Cody Eakin scored his first goal of these playoffs to give the Stars a 3-2 win.

This series is now tied heading back to Dallas for Game 5. For the Blues, it’s a missed opportunity to put the high-flying Stars on the brink of elimination.

Eakin snapped a 17-game scoring drought that stretched into late-March of the regular season by going top shelf, short side of Blues goalie Brian Elliott just 2:58 into the extra period.

Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp each had two-point nights for Dallas, assisting on the game winning goal.