Matt Duchene's Calder Trophy argument

Duchene.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: Colorado Avalanche
forward Matt Duchene.

Why he deserves it:
Heading into the 2009 NHL draft, the top three players in the draft
were at a different level than everyone else. John Tavares, Victor
Hedman and Matt Duchene were all projected to be extremely special
players and were all thought to be able to provide instant help for
whichever team drafted them. The questions was which order would they
go? Everyone knew that Tampa Bay would draft Hedman, as they already had
great skill up forward. Would the Islanders change their minds at the
last instance and draft Duchene?

Thankfully for the Avalanche, the
draft went as planned. The Islanders picked Tavares and the Avs
selected an extremely gifted forward who grew up as big an Avalanche fan
as they come. And while Tavares has certainly had a great season, no
one could have anticipated the impact Duchene has had in Colorado. He
leads all rookies in goals (24) and points (55) and has proven to be an
exceptionally well-rounded defensive player as well. In 81 games, he has
just 16 penalty minutes; he’s rarely out of position and has shown a
maturity on the ice well beyond what anyone thought possible in his
first season in the NHL.

Why he doesn’t deserve it: Good
question, and one that can only be answered when used in comparison
with his direct competitors. The Avalanche had an incredible run to
start the season yet finished with a bit of a stumble, something that
play against him when voters decide on the award. It’s also arguable
that Jimmy Howard and Tyler Myers have had a bigger impact and have been
more valuable to their team’s success than Duchene, although that’s a
tough argument to quantify.

He also has one hell of a goal celebration.

Why he gets it: He’s the
leader of an incredibly talented class of rookies, which includes
Tavares, Jamie Benn, Niclas Bergfors and T.J. Galiardi, and it’s tough
to think of another rookie that has played better or more consistent
then he has this past season.

Why he won’t get it: Voters
believe that Myers or Howard had the best season. This is a race that
is tough to judge, and unfortunately some sort of bias will kick in.
Duchene plays for a team that way out in Colorado, while Myers and
Howard are out on the East coast (relatively). Once again, it’s
unfortunate that’s the case, but that’s the reality.

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    Bylsma calls Reinhart’s rule violation, subsequent benching ‘disappointing’

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    There was a strange sight during Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus on Tuesday night: Sabres forward Sam Reinhart, fully dressed, sitting on the end of the bench.

    And not moving.

    At all.

    Reinhart was parked for the entire 60 minutes last night, which the Sabres later revealed to be punishment for violating team policy. According to a Buffalo News source, the 21-year-old showed up late to a meeting in the team hotel.

    Suffice to say, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t happy with the situation, or the outcome.

    “We’re going to move forward from here,” Bylsma said. “Disappointing, but it happened and we dealt with it. We’re going to move on from here.

    “We’re part of a team. We do things as a team. That’s hopefully the lesson.”

    This isn’t the first time Reinhart’s run afoul of Bylsma this season.

    In late October — and with Reinhart failing to find the back of the net — Bylsma said the club needed to get more out of the sophomore forward, who had 23 goals and 42 points as a rookie last season.

    That said, Reinhart has exceeded his point total from last year, currently on 46, and has been a steady lineup presence (well, aside from last night). He’s one of just a handful of Sabres to appear in 70-plus games this season, and saw his TOI jump up to 17:15 per night.

    NHL on NBCSN: Injury-riddled Pens look to snap three-game skid against slumping Blackhawks

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    NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

    Since the All-Star break, the Blackhawks have been one of the better teams in the NHL. Their terrific run over the last few weeks has not only allowed them to jump ahead of Minnesota for top spot in the Central, but it’s also enabled them to build a seven-point lead over their division rival.

    But it’s not all perfect in Chicago right now. Despite the fact that they’re in a good spot in the standings, the ‘Hawks had a rough ride through Florida in the last few days.

    On Saturday night, they were thumped 7-0 by the Panthers, and on Monday, they blew a 4-1 lead to the Tampa Bay Lightning before losing in overtime.

    Their effort may have been better on Monday than it was on Saturday, but it still wasn’t enough to propel them to victory.

    “I thought we were 100 percent better than we were last game,” head coach Joel Quenneville said after the loss to the Bolts, per the Chicago Tribune. “I know we had everything going our way there and we started getting cute in the neutral zone and had turnovers in that area, gave them rush chances.”

    The performances in their last two games led defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to suggest that his team was “too comfortable” this late into the season.

    The ‘Hawks have dropped three of their last four games (their only win came in a shootout victory over Dallas).

    Now, they’ll have an opportunity to get back on track against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

    The Penguins are having issues of their own, and it’s mostly injury-related.

    Pittsburgh has been without Evgeni Malkin, Carl Hagelin, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Trevor Daley, Olli Maatta and Ron Hainsey, and it’s clearly affected their play.

    There’s a bit of good news on the injury front. Conor Sheary, who suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday, is expected to play tonight.

    Malkin was able to skate on his own on Tuesday, and head coach Mike Sullivan hopes to get him back soon.

    “Our medical staff has a good handle on it,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune. “He’s going through a process both on and off the ice. He skated this morning, and he’s making progress, so we’re encouraged and we’re hopeful we’ll get him back sooner than later.”

    Coming into tonight’s game, the Penguins have dropped three in a row to the Senators (shootout), Islanders (shootout) and Flyers.

    The Pens aren’t in any danger of missing the playoffs, but they’re still battling for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

    Columbus’ win over Buffalo pushed them two points ahead of the Penguins (both have played 75 games). The Jackets also have four more regulation/overtime wins.

    The Capitals, who beat Minnesota last night, are three points up on Columbus and five points up on Pittsburgh.

    PHT Morning Skate: Joel Armia scored an amazing shorthanded goal you’ll have to see to believe

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    Joel Armia has developed into a very useful player for the Winnipeg Jets, and on Tuesday night, he scored an incredible end-to-end goal that you won’t want to miss. He fought off one New Jersey Devil then got around two others before scoring this beautiful shorthanded goal. (Top)

    –The Score breaks down the best “bang for your buck” contracts on each Canadian team. It’s not shocking to see Senators goalie Mike Condon on this list. The second-year netminder has been with three teams this season, but he’s come through in a big way for the Senators, and he only makes $575,000. (The Score)

    –The ESPN Hockey writers put together a list of what they think the Vegas Golden Knights roster is going to look like after the expansion draft. Some well-known names like Andrew Cogliano, Jonas Brodin, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Marchessault, Carl Hagelin and Jakob Silfverberg all made the list. (ESPN)

    –Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog touched on some advice David Poile had for the Golden Knights now that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Vegas. “You have to do your own thing. We created our ‘Predator Way.’ The Smashville idea and name. In-game entertainment fitting the market. Those things worked.” Friedman also wrote about Ken Hitchcock possibly returning to Dallas, and much more. (Sportsnet)

    –Brampton Thunder forward Laura Stacey is the great-granddaughter of hall-of-fame defenseman King Clancy. Recently, Stacey decided she wanted to do a little digging into her great-grandfather’s career, and it really allowed her to get an appreciation for everything he accomplished. “Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best. Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.” (Canadian Press)

    –The Montreal Canadiens have had some incredible defensemen come through their organization, but last night, Andrei Markov was able to reach an impressive milestone. By picking up an assist in a 4-1 win over Dallas, he tied Guy Lapointe for second in points by a defenseman in franchise history. Larry Robinson’s mark is pretty safe.

    Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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    The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

    For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

    The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

    New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

    This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

    The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.